When I was a chiropractor in New York City, an essential part of my job was helping stressed-out patients to relax. Back pain is a vicious cycle. The pain causes tension and the tension intensifies the pain. Breaking the cycle with relaxation and a change of viewpoint helps the body heal.
I never would have guessed that many years later, after giving up being a doctor and becoming a writer, I would find myself doing the same thing… helping people heal by changing their viewpoint. This time, the subject is not pain, but death.
In certain Eastern and Native American cultures, dying is seen as a natural part of the cycle of Life. Death is honored, not feared, and loved ones are believed to continue on as guardians who offer assistance and guidance.
Following the unexpected death of my brother Billy, I had that very experience. A few weeks after he died, I was awakened at dawn by his unmistakable voice calling my name. “Annie, Annie it’s me. It’s Billy… It’s like there’s a hole in the sky, a hole between our two worlds, I can look through and see you. I know how sad you are about my death. But death isn’t as serious as you think it is, honey. So far, it’s very enjoyable. And saying goodbye isn’t as serious as it seems either, because we will meet again.”
At first, I had the same doubts anyone would. Was I going crazy? Was this some weird, grief-induced delusion? How could I know? But as I became more adept and open to Billy’s communications, the bliss of his world flowed into mine. Being a long-time meditator , I am sure assisted in this process. Communicating with his soul caused my own to open up and my world was transformed. Wanting to share Billy’s journey through the afterlife, and my own new perspective on life, death and the Universe, led me to write my first book.
Soon after the book was finished, my eighty-eight year old mother, already ill and frail, fell and broke her hip. Being a doctor, I knew the fall would end her life. As she lay dying in the hospital, unconscious from the morphine drip needed to manage her pain, I climbed into her bed and held her. Stroking her exquisitely wrinkled face and holding her gnarled hands reminded me of how precious life in the flesh is. How sad that soon I wouldn’t touch those motherly hands again. Along with that sadness, though, I was also aware of how the soul endures. How, as an eternal being, my mother would soon pass through a portal that would take her to unimaginable bliss.
My mother had always been an incredibly strong woman, a fighter whose victory over cancer decades earlier was reported in the book “Extraordinary Comebacks.” But now it was time to surrender. I could sense a cadre of souls reaching for her, trying to help her come into their loving embrace. And I was also helping from my end by being willing to let her go. The room filled with golden light as she breathed her last breath. Her hands lost their color and warmth as they lay tenderly in mine. Together, she and I celebrated her freedom.
It poured the day of her funeral. Everyone was worried about the mud and the mess, but I sensed from my mother’s spirit that it would all be as it should. As we arrived at her gravesite, the storm stopped and the sunshine made everything glisten. At the ceremony, because I could feel her listening, I didn’t speak of her, I sang to her. Then I covered her coffin with eighty-eight roses, in reds and pinks and oranges, one for each year of her life.
The next day I drove to a small fishing village to watch the boats flow in and out and listen to the gulls chanting. It was late February, but seemed warm as spring. Looking at the silvery sky, I felt my mother beaming down. I whispered, “Mommy, give me a sign…just one.” Out on the bay something was swimming toward me. It was my mother’s favorite creature, a swan. Small and the purest white, it swam to where I was standing on the dock. I strolled up and down the dock with my white messenger floating beside me for what felt like an endless expanse of time.
Mere coincidence? I don’t think so, and nothing could convince me otherwise. The love that made our bond so strong in this world is alive and thriving in the next. As Billy puts it, “At the center of everything is an energy, an immaterial material that for lack of a better word I’ll identify as LOVE.” And that is the stuff of creation itself, in all its infinite forms.