Last night I spent two hours having a “what happens when we die” conversation with a friend I’ve known since the 80s. She’s dying from stage 4 cancer. It was diagnosed in December. She said her friends don’t talk to her about spirituality and crossing over. She’s been an atheist much of her life – although she’s done amazing work for the world in her career.
She had my book Bridges to Heaven: True Stories of Loved Ones on the Other Side – on her nightstand. She asked me to sit with her to talk about it. She said she’d spent her life not wanting to believe in that kind of “woo-woo” stuff. But now she was having experiences that she believed were some kind of inexplicable divine order and wanted to explore ideas she’d not been comfortable with before.
She cried for most of the two hours during our talk – releasing so much fear and grief she’s been holding on to. She’s devastatingly frail and in constant pain. She lives alone. Hospice visits twice a day. It was so hard to see her suffering and so afraid of death.
I taught her to meditate – as well as some other sacred techniques for releasing fear – like my Break Your Heart Wide Open meditation. I gave her a rosewood Mala – which she loved. She was so grateful I’d visited and will try to meditate now when’s she’s alone and afraid. She wants me to come back. And I will…
But it was so hard to be there. I’m so inadequate in those situations. The visit brought back so many memories of my husband Paul, best girlfriend Crissie, and my dad who all died too young – from cancer. Afterwards, my husband Gene and I talked about my visit. It helped so much to talk to him and feel his love and support. Our views on life and death are fully aligned and I’m so grateful for him.
But today I can’t get the images and smells of the visit out of my head. All I want to do is go shopping and buy some expensive Eileen Fisher clothes that I can’t afford. I know that’s just my grief acting up. It’s my old relentless question of why do good people often take the path of suffering before they die? That one painful question launched my spiritual exploration journey in the 80s. And it still fuels the work I do today.
And I realize that I’m so much better at helping grieving people – rather than the sick and dying. I can truly help with spiritual and emotional pain. But I can’t relieve physical pain and I can’t bear to see that kind of intense physical suffering – especially in young people who only months ago were vibrant and full of life.
I guess I’m still traumatized from taking care of my young husband Paul in my 20s as he died from colon cancer. It’s clear that I have some kind of post-traumatic stress syndrome: it makes me want to run from the sight of physical suffering.
Last night I kept feeling like I might throw up when I first walked into her room and saw tubes everywhere, the oxygen tank, and the pain on her face as she struggled to sit up a little in her bed to greet me. I had to work so hard to focus on her spirit, her beautiful radiant undamaged soul, and not on her body. A big part of me just wanted to run out crying into the night, to stand under the stars, to look at beauty instead of pain.
But instead I took a deep breath, opened my heart and sat down beside her – with love as my intention. Our heart to heart conversation helped calm her – and I hope our future conversations will help her release fear and find an inner peace about crossing over.
I shared many stories with her of the departed coming back to show me that life continues and that death is not the end of anything. I’m so deeply grateful to those spirits – Paul, Crissie, my dad and so many many others who’ve made it so abundantly clear that we are all souls who come here for a brief physical experience to evolve consciousness – and that crossing over – taking the final breath – is simply an act of love – of returning to the divine realms from which we came.
I’m so grateful for every moment of this lifetime that has pushed me to recognize this truth and for all the sacred teachers I’ve had along the way. And last night, my dying friend loved listening to those stories of departed spirits showing up, and she wanted to hear them again and again. She cried and cried as she listened – as her heart broke wide open.
To all the nurses, hospice workers, healers and physicians who care for the dying – I honor you so much for what you do in the world. It’s the hardest and best job there is. Nothing else compares. I’m so inadequate in the face of other’s physical suffering. I have to fight the impulse to run and instead focus on their spirit – which is after all what my work is here.
I hope you’ll forgive me for writing this story about my friend. It is a very private thing, I know. And perhaps I shouldn’t share it. Yet the experience of seeing loved ones suffer is a shared experience amongst all of us. Writing this has helped me process – not the visit itself – but my visceral reaction to seeing my dying friend.
Writing has always helped me heal pain and step into wisdom – to see things more clearly. It’s why I write. And maybe now I can resist the pull of Eileen Fisher, of seeking superficial comfort in the face of pain, of longing for beauty instead of what is…
My husband Gene just drove us up to Four Mile Canyon to the little Chapel of the Pines where my first husband Paul and I were married in 1979. So many memories flooded me of that happy sunny September day filled with love and hope.
As we drove back down the canyon we saw the little cabin down the road beside the creek where Paul and I first lived and had our sweet wedding reception. Both places have survived flood and fire and are impossibly still standing.
Think Paul must have watched over them…
It brought back so many powerful sensory memories to be there. I sat on the chapel steps and cried for 20 minutes. I remembered how happy my dad was that day and how much he loved Paul, our wedding, and our cabin. Dad and Paul are both watching out for me now from the other side.
Sitting on those steps I felt my dad, Paul, Crissie and Marv all with me. In the hard years following that amazing wedding day in 1979, I lost all of them to cancer – except for Marv who died of a stroke at the age of 44. Yet I’m grateful for the heartbreak I experienced then which sent me on my spiritual journey.
Today I have my incredible husband Gene Malowany and our miraculous children Sarah and Kai – and my amazing career – none of which I would have without going through my journey.
Gene sat beside me today listening to my memories and soaking up the experience. He understands everything about my life and where it’s brought me. It was his idea to drive up there. I hadn’t been up that canyon since 1980. I was grumpy on the drive up finding a million reasons not to go – some part of me realizing what I’d remember as soon as I saw that sacred place.
Yet once I released the flood of emotion that rose up in me… I saw with great clarity the gift of my life story and the gift of loving so many amazing souls along the way.
Standing on the steps of the Chapel of the Pines in Four Mile Canyon Colorado where I married Paul Frederick in 1979.
Thank you divine order…
Light is greater than dark. Always. Love is greater than fear. Always.
Choose your side, your words, and your actions to align with the light. Move forward into grace. You are divinely blessed and deeply loved.
When you choose fear and darkness, you’re not in alignment with the grace that abounds within and without you. You’re lost in the static and unable to hear the ever-present loving guidance.
Sit in silence at least once a day or so much is missed, so many mistakes made. Doing this is easier than not doing it, because everything shifts when you’re silent and have quieted the mind.
You’ll barely realize the grace that surrounds you when you get up from your sacred stillness and go about your day. But at the end of the day, when you review events, you’ll recognize the light that illuminated your choices.
All religions have tried to teach this in different ways. The ego-based ideas of humans have corrupted so much truth that was originally channeled from the divine. Religion was meant to be a ritual of silent connection, but so much was lost in human translations.
Your body is simply the vehicle that was perfectly designed for your unique journey. Each body and personality is so unique in its personal vibration. All of this was finely tuned and planned before your lifetime began. You can trust that your body and your personality are carrying you exactly where you need to go.
The same is true of your brain. Your brain was perfectly designed for the gifts you carried into this lifetime. There are no flaws in the design of anyone’s brain or body. Each piece of you is in perfect alignment with your soul’s mission and what you’ve come here to accomplish for humanity.
The older your soul, the greater your intent to accomplish something grand, to participate in the shift for higher consciousness. You would not be reading these words if you weren’t one of these old souls who came here with a great purpose.
Yet once you arrived, you struggled like everyone else to adapt to the dense energy here, often feeling like a fish out of water. Your body and brain is the earth suit you designed for the task of getting up and fulfilling your mission.
So stand up. Brush the dust off. Take a deep breath. Begin walking. Even if you don’t know where to go, take a step forward. You’ll be guided each inch of the way. You already have been. So take a step and trust.
From my new book: Your Divine Lens
Recently featured on “The Shelly Wilson Show” we had a wonderful conversation on drawing upon dreams, ancient numerology, powerful intuition, and conversations with spirits to help fulfill your soul’s mission and use pain as inspiration for a meaningful life.
We want to believe that everything lasts. We last. Our loved ones last. That what we feel today is forever.
But it’s more like water. Waves upon waves of change and uncertainty shifting around us causing us to lose our footing – to go under and drink the salty brine and come up gasping for air – unsure of who we are. Where we are. Or if we’re alone.
We instinctively search for a horizon. A landing place. Safety. Anywhere. Until we find something solid to gaze upon and we feel secure again. Certain nothing will change.
But we’re still standing in the ocean…
The next wave is always bigger and knocks us over because we had our back to it.
We learn. We open our arms wide and embrace the waves. Laugh as they lift us higher in the air to reveal the greater view – the bigger picture. Hungrily we drink in that vast landscape noting the lighthouse we never saw before, the gull resting calmly on nothing halfway out to nowhere, and the long glistening white fish jumping high above the wave teasing us with its mystery.
We marvel at beauty. Knowing that something creates this – if not the gull itself. If not the water itself. A divine poet arranges the details. But who and how? We write books about this unknowingness, create careers analyzing it, build damns and concrete roads and bridges and still the water swirls around us mysteriously because we are amidst the living sea.
We are the living sea. That sea is in us; it courses through our veins; beats in our hearts. Just when we think we’ve discovered everything, that no one has ever known as much…
A wave rolls towards us from nowhere and we are teetering terrified above everything in the rush of changing water. We surrender once again to the power of the grand poet – as we’re pushed back to the ground by the force of the wave – our limbs dancing madly out of control, our heads brushing painfully against the sand, twisting and turning with abandon – until the wave releases us again. We struggle to our feet gasping – taking in raw sobbing breaths. Calling out to our friends whom we may have lost in the crushing waves.
Someday we do arrive on the beach through no efforts of our own. Then we realize we had choices in how we rode those waves. There are others who floated above them and some who fought and loss and drowned beneath them, and many who struggled endlessly when they only needed to surrender to the ride, rest their heads upon the salty brine – not trying to stand where it was impossible to stand.
And we see that we exhausted ourselves when we fought it, and that it would have been wiser to relax, surrender, laugh and even reach towards someone else who was going under.
We see then that all bodies make it to shore one day or another – one way or another. And that all that ever mattered was how we rode the lovely waves. And if we brought someone along with us to the vast white shore.