I glibly used to describe being a medium as “spending a lot of time with dead people,” until one day when a very kind “dead” woman, the grandmother of the client seated before me, told me that it wasn’t good etiquette to refer to spirits that way. “Actually, Dear, you might want to change how you describe us. It’s not quite…polite,” she said. I burst out laughing and had to explain to my client what had just happened, that I had just gotten schooled by her granny. Who then said, “We’re not dead at all. We’re more alive than you are! Now don’t feel badly because no one really cares that much what you call us, as long as you keep talking to us, but you might want to change the words. To something more accurate. Less fear-based. You’ll feel better.”
I was grateful for the reminder that death is an illusion, that a person who dies actually transcends. More times than I can count, they report back that the passage into the next part of the journey is actually quite ecstatic. When our bodies stop working, it is a kind of release. And nothing about what is truest about ourselves stops at all. We blend back into a love much bigger than we can ever experience in this life, not to dissolve, or disappear, but to reunite with our capacity for love. To expand. It’s like being able to truly see it all, including all those new colors on the spectrum that our human eyes didn’t have the functionality for.
I know all this, and yet I miss my own grandmothers, who died in 1988 and 1993, just as much as when they crossed over. Every animal I have ever cared for, I still grieve. There is a way in which my heart just doesn’t get that we don’t live this life forever. So when I got the news last week that a dear client had been admitted to the ICU, nearing the end after a long illness, I could not control the flood of tears and sadness that took me over.
Linda was amazing. She was tiny–with a blaze of gorgeous red hair she impeccably cut herself. She came to my groups in San Diego for about five years before she got sick. She was born in 1945, and was one of the first “air hostesses” in the airline industry, and kept flying until she retired, well after they were recognized as flight attendants. She was always wearing fabulous jewelry and clothing from her travels all over the world. And yet she flew light–she was the least encumbered by the baggage of fear or resentment than most of the people I have met in this life. It was so striking how positive she was, even I used to catch myself wondering if perhaps she was in denial about some dark or heavy wound she kept hidden away, even from herself? Then she’d blow that suspicion out of the water with a story about her family that was so deeply forgiving of exactly who they were, that I’d realize I was in the presence of someone who had worked her way through her life, not flinching from any of the pain, and was standing on the other side, free.
I used to keep index cards around when I channeled for her because the guides were always giving her recipes for natural healing–teas, tinctures, foot baths, skin treatments. I started writing them down so I wouldn’t forget and then we all started trying them. They were amazing, usually made with ingredients that I didn’t know existed, that I would have to hunt down.
Uncharacteristically, she began to isolate when her illness progressed. It was out of character because Linda was just the definition of open-hearted engagement. She was also the most open-minded person I’ve ever met. I loved her instantly, for her originality, but also because she took to me immediately. She liked me and made no bones about it. Then she loved me and made no bones about that. Her generous affection for others was stunning to watch. How could anyone not be changed by watching her be so effortlessly kind?
When she got sick, we were thrown a little because she wouldn’t let us help her with the daily business of life that takes so much energy when you’re not feeling well. And she wouldn’t let us visit. We worried. We found ways to let her know we were thinking of her and sending her light, and she always thanked us and told us that she felt we were there for her and how much she appreciated us. But it was clear, she was creating space around her, a zone of privacy I thought. Now I know that she knew. The space was not in place to protect her. It was to protect us. Not from the pain of the loss, but from the illusion that we could stop or delay what was happening. She knew we would want to help her, and that it wouldn’t be right. It was her time.
Last Saturday I was in the middle of a session when I saw her briefly appear. She was giggling and waving to me. She seemed–and I mean this exactly as it sounds–like she had won the freaking lottery. She was that joyous. She waggled her fingers at me, and said, “I know how worried you were. But see? I’m so okay! And I was okay before, too!”. I reflected upon how, when I’d heard that she was in the ICU, I had commented to my friend that of all the people I knew, Linda was probably excited about what came next. Standing there glowing at me, she winked. “I was,” she said.
Then she was on her way.
The next morning I got the news that she “passed away” (God that sounds horrible, remind me never to use that phrase again) thirty minutes before she’d stopped in on me to say goodbye.
I am so very sad it has knocked me over a little. I’ve had to slow down these last couple of days due to dizzy spells and waves of heavy sorrow. And I can’t imagine living in a world without her beauty. It doesn’t seem right.
And while we’re at it, I’d like to have a few others back, to simply continue being their awesome selves. In the last two months alone: Harold Ramis, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, a beloved Special Education teacher at the middle school, two more cherished educators in the community, Loren Nancarrow, a friend’s father, another friend’s mother. Our former neighbor who, on the very day we arrived in our new town, saw us standing in the rain by the moving truck, walked down our driveway, shook our hands and offered his help, and continued to be our hero over and over again–anytime we needed help, he was there without question.
Maybe trying to create a context for sadness is futile. Even though I know what I know, putting sadness in its place is like trying to will the tides in and out. It just doesn’t work. Grief takes us to where it wants us to be. And in that, we aren’t so much broken-hearted as we are broken open. Breaking open hurts. But being open-hearted is what Linda was, and is, and that is worth everything.