Wednesday, July 1, 2020

opening to magic



The world is full of magic things, patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper.
–– WB Yeats

Magic.

It's the word I land on when I can't quite explain what is happening but it has meaning, seems to come from the ethers, has a synchronicity one cannot replicate, feels it is born in the depths of the Universe where we begin and where we will rest.

As woo-woo as I've been accused of being, over the years, being human, I have always held a healthy amount of doubt. 

Yes, I might declare a big OMG and retell a happening with the awe of a child, but I'd never fully given myself over to the truth of Magic.

After the death of my father in 1983 me, my mom and brother witnessed a profound visitation from him the second morning after his death. (you can hear this on episode 9 of The Death Dialogues Project Podcast). That should have been enough to dissipate any doubt about connections to the beyond. 

I've remained open, intrigued and a tad doubting.

After my sweet brother and mother's deaths I started keeping a list on my iPhone notes of instances that felt like notable "contact." But as I've shared with others, until they come sit down and have a cuppa with me, I'll always hold some doubt.

More recently with all the unrest in the world, I've been making an extra effort to try to stay centered; I have more motivation than many because my health absolutely depends on trying to stay balanced.


Maybe that's why, more recently, on the daily, I keep getting intense signs of, er, Magic. That's really the only way I can describe it.

Presently on a solo writing retreat, in the middle of nowhere New Zealand, I awakened this morning, remained still, trying to rest in that liminal lucid space where I'm present yet still floating in the ethereal land of slumber. 

I had a vision of Ram Dass, a teacher of love, who died last December; I'd had a profound dream of being in his presence, in another realm, the night of his death.

This morning, in awakening, I was imagining a scene from his movie where his friends roll him into the ocean on a wheelchair, with big balloon tires to negotiate the sand, and as he is in a depth to float they unleash him from the chair and support him floating. His ever expansive smile widens and deepens and he exudes even more pure joy than usual.

I'm lying in bed imagining how freeing and soothing that must have felt on his body that had been rendered still and partially paralyzed from a stroke decades ago. 

I let myself imagine floating in the sea and recall how supported that feels. How that action literally renders one held by the Universe, the Earth Mother. 

I remind myself to feel that support. 

I send him love. 

I send all my loves on the other side love.

When I pick up my phone and go to Instagram, this is what I see, I kid you not:




It is occurrences such as this that act as a lightening bolt to validate: there is so much more to our living than meets the eye. 

As you may have heard me say if you listen to the podcast: I'm totally down with the Great Mystery.

I don't need a doctrine to follow or a belief system to wrap it in or to know exactly what will happen at the moment of Death and beyond, but I have witnessed enough to know that it's all Magic. 

And we can choose to walk in the Magic while here on earth, have a thread connected to it, until we join whatever that space may be on our final walk home. 

That space that caused my mama's face to light up in a full face gorgeous smile (far from what her affect had been) as her spirit left her body. A face that said–– there you are; yes, I knew you'd be here; this, this is what I was wanting. 

A face that had us cheering her on, you've done it mom, you're there, well done

A face that had my husband lean over and say, we love you Wanda, go give Max a big hug for us.

One of my latest turning points, to release doubt further, was my experience with my podcast guest Marisa Meddin, an unlikely medium. She's just your average young woman, the age of our oldest daughters, who wasn't looking to find her gift, but it found her. 

We have a two part episode where we hear her journey in Part 1 and then, so convinced of her authenticity, I engage her services and in Part 2 we unpack that profound experience. You can find part 1 and 2 of my chats with Marisa below. And if you are intrigued about my father's visitation you can find that episode below as well.

Consider noticing the "coincidences." 

Consider making space for quiet and connection to the beyond.

Consider having conversations with your loves who have died and crossed over. 

Consider love. 

Always Love.




Wednesday, June 17, 2020

John Pavlovitz on The Death Dialogues Project Podcast




Did you miss last year's podcast with John Pavlovitz? 

The first time I read one of John's viral pieces on grief I felt like I had gone full spiritual circle in my life.

John was a Methodist pastor in a megachurch and was ousted for his compassionate views towards acceptance of all things compassion of differing beliefs and the LGBTQIA community.

I grew up in one such church that would have ousted him and because of that disconnect between religion and compassion throughout my young life, I'd had a difficult time reconciling how the two could coexist.

Enter John. 

Listen to him and you will see how compassion and religion can co-exist. 

It was so uplifting hearing his confirmation that there are many paths to God (and many names for God).

I've gained so much from the intimate conversations on The Death Dialogues Podcast and this goes down as one that was hugely healing.

The other magical aside is that his eloquence in his writing and discourse as well as his belief foundations is so reminiscent of my brother Max's walk in life; I could feel his presence within this episode.

Give it a listen and follow his work. Beautiful all. 


Wednesday, June 10, 2020

thoughts for white people from a white female US ex-pat boomer on a hill in New Zealand







As I sit on top of a grass-green hill overlooking a view my dear family who have gone before me called paradise, it's a time of coming to terms with what we don't know–– and that is everything. 

Just released from "lockdown" in New Zealand, my husband and I exchanged gazes at dinner last night. 

I think I feel more tense than I did when we were on level 4 (the highest).

Me too–– he agrees.

Shocked, time and time again, hearing from people we spoke with about how much they'd enjoyed "lockdown," that feeling was waning. 

That sense of okay-ness was privilege speaking of course, but rightly or wrongly, a great many people seemed to be getting in touch with a simplicity or inner-ticking they had all but forgotten. 

And coming home to those sensations was the pleasant surprise of being put in a lengthy and imposing time-out.

Now when we gaze at our beautiful New Zealand views, while we viscerally exhale at the thought of that spikey virus possibly being eliminated from our midst, we clench from the inside out in the awareness of the unnecessary killings and mass unrest in the US. 

Maybe it was the false sense of security lockdown gave us that we were doing our best because our abilities were so limited. Now with the veranda furled open the world asks of us, again, what is within your power to make this better?

Historically, "we the people" are put in the position to assume all responsibility for social and cultural change while the top 1% are playing political duck-duck-goose with all of our lives at the highfalutin' country club on the other side of town– that none of us could ever get a pass to enter.

If only we worked harder, were smarter, would have made better choices, weren't so weak or mentally ill, they tell us, while also slinging judgments on current affairs: 

Blame the sports person on their knee.

Blame the person who committed a petty theft (and was then killed by law enforcement).

Blame the people who deal drugs for the shooting of an innocent up and coming young woman.

Blame each other– you can't trust your neighbor. 

Blame the gun toting, tattooed, swastika'd and, while we are at it, blame the peace-loving protesters, calling them all hoodlums. 

Keep that infighting going amongst the worker bees–the wannabes–who just want to be in a life that has a hint of the privilege others seem born into. 

Throw people off the scent of voting for the right reasons. 

Don't remind them that a vote for your presidential candidate also loads the Supreme Court and Senate and Congress who have the power to continue the status quo or burn it to the ground. (even our most liberal candidates shy away from the torch, but the only hope is to get behind them in mass so as not to dilute down the vote and give the conservatives the power to keep building their separatist empire)

Keep the infighting going so there's no energy left to get politically and economically literate enough to see that yes, race disparity is historical and unacceptable and so is socioeconomic disparity. 

Keeping people impoverished is what keeps the powers that be empowered.

Enough is enough.

Let's teach our children the truth, at home and in the school systems, and break these patterns of systemic oppression.

Interrupt the narrative that allows poor white folk to align with the Republican party because they get a psychological boost and sense of power from the transient feeling of being in the club with the top 1%–– when in actuality they wouldn't be allowed to clean the chicken coop at their high falutin' country club.

The Make America White Again messages aren't lost on a soul and those who are in poverty, and the well-off alike, who are afraid of people different from themselves, stand in line and eat that shit up like they've just reopened a Chick-fil-A that's been closed a decade. That kool aid of subversive brainwashing is what elected the current president. He preached to the right choir.

Unpack the one-line, one-dimensional, idiotic messages the president gives-- I'm so excellent or that is very very bad and find ways to educate the sheep about just how badly they are being skewered and roasted. Blind sheep pie is on special in the rural and economically deprived areas of the US and the ruling party cannot get enough of it; it was Trump's success.

My origins were from a rural red geographic area and some of my southern family line-dance to this president's drum. The same family that swore me off when I told them to take me off their racist email chain when President Obama was running. 

I'm always blown away at the demonization that can come from standing up for justice issues while people are okay to hurl racial slurs ad nauseam. "Good" Christian folk included.

I know for us well-meaning white folk, it feels paralyzing to consider what we may be able to do anything to actually help. Might I suggest rather than nothing, at the very least, we take micro-steps:

  • Teach our children how to not behave in a racist or elitist manner. Teach compassion. Modeling behavior is the most effective way to teach children.
  • Check our language. Even with being very mindful about non-classist or racist messages there are subtleties that seep through the cracks. For instance, how infrequently when President Obama was in office did we hear "president" before his name. Obama this and Obama that. Implicit racist disregard, even from the newsrooms; it so easily became the norm.
  • Let's not be afraid to see our errors and commit to change them. We all have the common denominator of being imperfect humans.
  • Unpack our implicit racism. Racism is a spectrum disorder. We all have it. Until we step out of the closet of denial and understand the messages we were given,   we cannot fully step into positive change. And, at the same time, we must check our classism. There is no room for superiority mentality in this climate of moving forward in togetherness and fighting systemic oppression.
  • Listen. Listen. Listen. To people that are in the throes of oppression. Just like the premise of The Death Dialogues Project–– we learn more from each others' stories than listening to lectures on the topics. 

Even micro-steps in the right direction by a large proportion of a well-meaning crowd wanting to see racial and economic equality will shift the movement forward.
And let me remind people that are aware of their cultural heritage about an elephant in the living room: We white folk are a lost breed of mutts.  

Remember the old Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer movie? The US is the island of the misfit toys. 

With early migration, most of our people were met by the Men in Black guys who shot us with the erase-your-memory-guns at the border. 

So many white folk have no idea about their heritage, what their family and cultural views and practices were, hence the current popularity of the dna testing companies.

There's an inherent jealousy that exists because most marginalized cultures may be economically-poor but there is an overwhelming richness in identity and connection with ancestors. 

You cannot put a dollar amount on that sense of identity. 

Granted, that white amnesia may have occurred because of the atrocities committed by the hands of our people, but it does not negate that many of us are missing a piece of our story. 

And those stories that most of us are missing are the stories that rock many of our marginalized brothers and sisters to sleep at night, holding them in a deep knowing of who their people were and where they came from.  

The disconnection with our white cultural roots and escape from our mother-countries provided fertile ground for extremist patriotism that easily aligns with frightening racist extremist mentality. Seeing Black people as slaves and sub-human is part of the US’s cultural foundation that many white folk have yet to mindfully evict from their collective consciousness.

And if there is a hell— there will be a special room for those that wrap their racism up in Christian or religious doctrine. Love. Just love like you are meant to, please. 

Since our arrival in New Zealand in 2011, people have been blown away when I give them an honest answer to their questions about racial discrimination in the US. 

Never again will I be met with the same disbelief.

When I was a little girl, it was the views on the backroads of rural America, occasionally similar to the one I see out my window right now, that spoke to my child-heart. The same wee heart that broke watching the civil rights marches on the television.

No matter the view from any room, throughout my life, my heart has continued to hurt for the divide in the US and the world. 

Maybe, just maybe, a momentum towards progress has formed that will not be severed. 



Note:
And for the record as I echo back to an American telling me how hated I was and good thing I'm in NZ and should stay there, when I expressed a much milder and shorter opinion: I'm still a US citizen and pay my taxes every year, and even if I didn't? I'd still have a right to share my voice– freedom of speech and all. 

Thursday, April 16, 2020

an open letter from a funeral director during the covid pandemic

the author & her grandfather

I’m Emma Jane, a death care professional who has worked in the funeral industry for the better part of a decade. Caring for those who can no longer look after themselves is my passion. So when people started reaching out to me with concerns during the COVD-19 disaster, I wrote this letter to help ease your mind. To assure you that if you do lose a loved one during this pandemic, they will be looked after and cared for with upmost respect and articulation. Sending you all much love xo
Emma Jane
@Heelsandhearses 

I would like to take a moment and address everybody who’s lost a loved one during the COVID-19 chaos. I am reaching out to the grieving who fear they’ll be robbed of the traditional, comforting farewell ritual that a large funeral provides. This ritual provides those in mourning an opportunity to reunite with relatives they may not have seen in years, to share hugs, kisses, and stories of the beloved deceased. 

Those of us who work in the death care industry offer our deepest condolences from the bottom of our hearts that you are experiencing this heartache during the Coronavirus chaos. I write this letter with the hope that it will calm your mind.

For those with endless questions, I am answering a specific inquiry presented to me just this afternoon:  ‘what will you do now, with all the bodies? Do you just keep them all piled up in the morgue?’

My answer: Of course not.

Funeral directors treat your loved ones like family. My colleagues and I retrieve the dead from bed sheets while neglecting our own. We leave behind a pouch of potpourri as a gesture to say ‘we care.’ Once back at the funeral home, death care professionals painstakingly tend to details, applying hydrating cream to the face and hands of your loved ones to prevent dehydration from the cool room. I offer these details so you can rest assured the one you miss cared for wholeheartedly.

When it is time to prepare your loved one for the funeral, the director will groom them lovingly, shaving if necessary, washing their hair, and dressing them diligently with the outfit you have chosen. They are being looked after, I promise you. I hope this information helps.

Now to the event in focus, the funeral.

Up until two days ago, up to 500 people were allowed at this goodbye ceremony that not only celebrates your loved one’s life, but also propels your grieving journey in the right direction. Funerals, we say, are for the living. They provide a chance for stories to be shared and sentimental songs to be played, along with a safe place for you to cry freely. 

However, in the wake of the new restrictions placed upon funerals, I’d like to reveal something to you: Some of the most touching services I attend are intimate gatherings of less than ten.

Guests take turns entering the chapel to spend one-on-one time with the deceased, placing mementos in the coffin, leaving a kiss on the cheek and a gentle touch on the hand. Once each attendee has taken their turn, they sit quietly in the chapel. Eschewing numerous eulogies, extravagant photo montages, and scheduled music, they simply sit. Peacefully, they spend time with their loved one who has passed. Funeral directors find these services particularly humbling. I once witnessed a colleague with hulking biceps that bulge through his suit step outside to wipe a tear.

These small services are special, our favourite. 

If you’re afraid you are not honouring your loved one with a large gathering, rest assured, they don’t mind. If you believe in an afterlife, they are there now, understanding the mess we are all experiencing. They love you regardless. 
They get it. 

However, grief changes you forever.  Grief alone can stir despair and fear. I’m so sorry you have to navigate this experience during a pandemic, where despair and fear abound in spades. I will be here for you every step of the way from afar, this I promise you. 

All of this being said, I’d like to also offer additional options. Memorial services are not currently common in Australia. A memorial service takes place at a later date, after a loved one is buried or cremated. Such services forfeit ever-climbing funeral expenses like chapel hire and flowers. Rather than a coffin, a photo is present, often alongside the deceased’s cremated remains in an urn. Loved ones gather over drinks, tea, and food to embrace the joys and sorrows of celebrating a life since passed. Memorial services are less formal. As such, people are more inclined to laugh and share unfiltered stories. I believe memorial services are a great alternative to traditional funerals. Perhaps you may not have considered this. 

Another option includes approaching the clergy or reverend conducting the service to ask if they wouldn’t mind presenting the service several times in a row. This allows multiple groups of family and friends to attend in smaller numbers. Live streaming is popular now also. 

I am the first to admit, funerals are an important step in the grieving process. They allow those in mourning to begin a new life without the deceased. However, during this time where only 10 to 12 guests are allowed, I want you to know everything is still going to be okay. You can still say goodbye. This has not been taken away from you. One simply requires an alternative option for the time being.

You can say goodbye on your own time, when you are ready, by visiting graveside or holding the memorial with your loved one’s urn. Throw a party even, once the self-distancing orders have been lifted of course. Know your departed loved one is with you every single moment now, funeral or not. They are by your side in your memories and dreams. 

In the meantime, please know your chosen funeral director is caring for your loved one. They wish there was more they could do for you.

Ask questions. Don’t be afraid. Death is scary, but mystery spurs fear, so ask your funeral director as many questions as you need. It’s their job to console and be there for you. They are trained to nurture your grief like no one else can.

This an uncertain time for all, but your dearly departed loved one should not be an added stress during the turbulence. They’re cared for.

Kindly,
Emma Jane


Monday, March 23, 2020

a dose of medicine for you

My gift to you.

Your reactions to all of the mixed messages and confusing information our there about the Covid-19 crisis are so very understandable.

While we could wax lyrical about various leadership critical errors or slow responses all we really have is this moment right here.

This one.

The moment where you are reading this message.

Admittedly after the explosion of cases, my reaction was one of paralysis. Simply absorbing the magnitude of the situation. Having repeated family meetings about how, based on the trends and research and expert opinion, we were going to move forward in this world shaking process.

We made some decisions that were a bit out of the box: took our 15 year out of high school prior to any suggestions to do so (and he promptly exhibited some viral symptoms the next day along with receiving messages about rampant flu like symptoms at his school); we've been practicing physical distancing for over a week.

Evidence shows us all we need to physically distance ourselves from each other.

We need to be kind.

We need to find other ways of connection.

We need to take care of ourselves.

I've recorded this bonus episode "Calm in the Time of Corona" where you will find 30 minutes of soothing elixir that (I promise) will introduce you to some very easy techniques for optimal mind-body-spirit health that will facilitate increased resilience and coping during these trying times.

Please take a moment.

Take a break.

Put on your headphones.

And know that this episode was made with love and compassion and every hope that we will each find the inner resilience and longevity we need to get through this long strange trip.

And please, if you know anyone who is struggling to cope and also in the name of being proactive and not reactive-- feel free to share.

(the content of this episode is rational and science-based and recommended by an MD, Master’s of Public Health who is immersed in this covid19 pandemic’s  trends and research-- this isn't fluff, please listen)

Much love and all things good--
Becky


Tuesday, February 25, 2020

a story of infant loss

Losing a child to Death is a parent's worst nightmare.

Chris Frazier tells the story of a prenatal diagnosis and the eventual death of her lovely baby, Emily Elizabeth.

As tragic as this story is, listen to this mother's ability to find the miracles that occurred during Emily's short life.

We don't always hear open stories of infant loss and the conversations I have had convince me that mourning parents find connection and peace by hearing others stories of loss.

There is healing in not feeling so isolated in your loss.

If you know someone who has suffered infant loss, I highly recommend you share this beautiful episode with them.


Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Death Walking: the most intimate walk of our lives


The DeathTalker journey I am on was very inspired by Zenith Virago, Deathwalker a renowned voice of natural death care and the aftermath.

A documentary based on her work, watching Zen and the Art of Dying, informed me so fully that when my dear brother died, a month later, I was able to confidently suggest to my lovely sister in law that that we could consider keeping him home where we had taken care of him and he died. Our family experienced something that made his tragic Death, as a pillar in our family, into a celebration of him and connectedness with each other which I know made him proud. 

You can read about the natural death and care experiences with my brother, and 10 months later with my mother, HERE where I shared deeply for a several post series on both of their deaths.

Synchronistically, this past October I was fortunate enough to attend a three day DeathWalker training with Zen in Auckland. It was deep and wide.

Here is a lovely conversation with Zenith that covers so very much from child loss to people taking their own lives to recommendations for us all at times of death and more.

Do yourself a favour and listen to this beautiful chat with one of the world's leading voices of natural death care.