There are days when I so miss my mother, my sweet, sweet brother, Scottie, my nephew, Jimmy, my grandmothers and grandpas, my dear friends and my soulmate, my two precious babies that have crossed the veil. I was ten years old when I attended my first funeral. I still remember the kick I felt deep in my gut when I saw my Grandpa laying in his casket. That was the moment true fear of loss gripped me. From then on I knew that everyone I loved could be ripped from me with no warning. I never really feared death for myself. But oh, how I dreaded and trembled at those heart-wrenching losses. After that, death seemed to hound me. Both grandfathers and my dad’s only sister passed away all in the same spring. Then my dad’s mother, my great-grandmother, my brother, my soulmate, my first baby, my old boyfriend, my mom’s mother, my youngest child’s twin, my surrogate father, my nephew, my dear friend, Kay, my mother, and my best friend from college. Others I knew had passed in between these major losses, including a six-year-old boy whose funeral tore everyone up. The grief just seemed to compound, never really healing. Just a wound that reopened and grew deeper with each successive loss. Pretty soon it seemed I had more loved ones in the cemetery than in the world with me.
I do not know how others handle multiple losses. The truth is I wasn’t really handling them. My weight spiraled to a top known weight of 380 pounds on my 5’2″, small-boned frame. Depressed, anxious, ill, confined to a wheelchair and a hospital bed. I was certain I would soon die too. It is really only in the past year that I have made my peace with death–learned to embrace it and not fear it. I have been a christian as long as I can remember, having accepted Christ at a very young age. I have always been drawn to spiritual things. But it wasn’t until my mother passed in 2006, that I began to explore further than the teachings of my local church. I began to study the Qabalah, the third book of Moses. My studies expanded to metaphysics, eastern religions and eastern medical practices. I even delved into subjects like spiritualism, reincarnation–anything, really, that dealt with the Spirit. Maybe I was trying to find some connection to all I felt I had lost. I knew there were times I sensed my brother’s and my mother’s presences around me quite distinctly. Was I imagining things? Was it wishful thinking? Was I going crazy?
But when I think of how grateful I am to have known them, loved them, been loved by them; I am overwhelmed with the goodness of God. I celebrate these fine saints who served mankind well. I celebrate their spirits, their lives here and hereafter. I celebrate the future when I will not part with them again, but will spend eternity as one. And I celebrate those precious moments when I sense them here with me still. I am swallowed by memories that live so brightly in my soul, for a brief chance of time I am transported across years and the boundaries of death to live with them again. I feel their energy surround me, sense their touch, their smell, the sound of them until I can almost see them before me. And that veil becomes so thin it is almost transparent and I know. I know. Eternity waits for me full of more love than I can comprehend because love never dies. It waits for me on the other side.
I spent a four- month vigil at my mother’s bedside, never leaving her day or night, watching as she faded from this world into the next. It was an awful, most precious, holy, yet heartbreaking communion with her and God. Yet there was a sweetness to each moment we stole from death. We had all fallen asleep the night she passed, on the couch, on the floor, and in a chair by her bed. I startled awake looking immediately to her bed where a nurse bent over her with a stethoscope. She had just taken her last breath. What was it that awakened me? What awakened my brother just seconds after me? I believe it was the spiritual being of our beloved mother, pausing to kiss us each goodbye before winging her way to heaven. I remember leaning down the day before and whispering into my mother’s ear, “Do you see him, Mama? Can you see your boy in his red sweatsuit? I am sure he’ll be right next to Jesus!” And I watched in amazement as her eyes panned back and forth behind her closed eyelids, searching some plane I could neither see nor to which I could go.
Today, as I was walking through the surf on the beach, I was reflecting on the sheer exhultant joy I feel to be up, walking, free of the wheelchair in which I sat for seven years. What effervescent euphoria this freedom is! The icy tide rolled over my feet as my toes pressed into the sand, the sensations welcomed by me to the depths of my soul. I felt the same as I did when I was 16 and my parents handed me the car keys for my first solo drive. Freedom! I am free of that broken body that had held me prisoner all those years. That is when it hit me. This must be what death feels like. Free at last from an earthly vessel that holds us back, we must fly heavenward in sheer joy at being set loose. Suddenly, death changed for me. It is not a losing, but a winning. My mother must have soared to be unchained from a body that was so sick. Her light shining full-beam, undimmed by flesh, unfettered by time or earth. Stopping to kiss each of us, did she do cartwheels in the sky, zooming over like a shooting star? As I watched the seagulls dance in the waves, I could see my loved ones dancing on the light-waves of energy eminating from their beings. What a party must be going on next door!
Do not fear to lose your loved ones; they are always with you. Do not fear for them; they wing their way across the heavens, liberated from bondage. Darting to and fro with the frolick of a child splashing in a puddle of water, they must course through time and space with a freedom for which our own souls must somehow long like some dimly half-remembered, fantastic dream. And they fly through the love of every soul who has ever drawn breath, basking in the warmth and light, multiplying it with their own, and waiting joyously for the arrival of the hour of our change. Death is not separation. Death is union. Death is not loss. Death is love. Death is not the end. It is a new beginning. It is the answer to every prayer every person has prayed since the dawn of time. Death is true life in disguise.