You are viewing the "death" Archives

A Father and Daughter Story: Greeting Death When It Arrives On My Doorstep

Posted on:  Jun 14, 2018 @ 10:00 Posted in:  Path Basics

On May 5, just over one month ago as the sun reached its peak in the skies of Eastern Canada, my father, Brian Clifford Clark, left this world. He died in peace in his hospital bed, his last breath so gentle that my brother Barry, his sole witness, almost missed it. I woke on this morning, before I knew what had happened, and sensed that all was well and my dad was going home.  And he has gone home, to rest, to peace, to love, to goodness.

When the death of my beloved father arrives on my doorstep, there’s relief, gratitude, grief, disorientation, love, transformation, remembering and saying goodbye.

As a pagan who travels the path of the Goddess, death is something that I embrace as a natural, essential part of the cycle of life. I honor death in the turning of the seasons, in the great and small endings and beginnings that mark my journey through life, and as the catalyst for profound transformation.

The death of my beloved father makes these things raw and real for me. I’m awake and aching in the midst of the disorienting mysteries of death, and finding my Self and footing in a world without my dad in it, where his immense presence and loving support are no longer a phone call, plane ride or hug away.

These are some of the many ways I’m greeting death with its arrival on my doorstep.

There is relief. The passing of my dad was best for him. He had been ill and suffering for a long time, not with a specific ailment, but more from the stripping away of his independence, strength and physical capacities. He was burnt out and exhausted, hanging on only by sheer will and his desire to stay with my mother, his wife, beloved and best friend of sixty-three years. I’m glad and at peace that he has been set free.

There is gratitude. My father was a beautiful, loving, complex soul. He was grumpy, edgy, willful and a handful at times, with big energy, big will, a strong sense of himself, and a deep integrity, generosity, kindness and thoughtfulness. He loved each of us in my family for who we were, with no strings attached. He loved me, deeply, fully, openly, and I him. It was, and always will be, my great honor and blessing to be his daughter.

There is returning to roots. I traveled to my hometown to be with my mother, collect my father’s ashes, and honor his memory with my family. The setting, the stories, these beautiful, quirky people: this is where I come from, and what I’m made of. My dad’s legacy is us, his children and grandchildren, and I know myself better in their company.

There is grief. I have no words for the immensity of my loss and heartbreak. It’s like an ocean, deep and vast, that can be a gentle wave or a tsunami. Mostly, I’ve chosen the gentle wave, dipping my toe in, and then retreating. But the tsunami comes, sudden and overwhelming, and I surrender to its cleansing work. I expect that I’ll have this grief until my last breath, something that I’ll get used to rather than get over.

There is peace between us. It’s the rare person who escapes from childhood and family dynamics unscathed. Death is a time of raw honesty, where the truths of unsaid and unfinished business make their way back to the surface. These too are part of the transformative mysteries of death, guiding our journey of healing.  Blessedly, my father and I did our healing work and cleaned up our unfinished business many years ago. We found a place of truth that could hold both the hardships and the beauty of our journey together, and that gifted us with pleasure and peace in each other’s company.

There is disorientation. There’s never been a moment in my life without my dad.  His DNA, energetic patterns, love, approval and presence are built into my very foundation.  I learned about men, parenthood, marriage, family and the things that matter most through his living example. I witnessed aging, dignity and suffering through his end years. Now he is gone, and some essential part of me and my life has been snatched away, changing my world forever. I feel this, but don’t get it yet. And I don’t need to get it. It’s enough to accept this disorientation, and the change it brings, as natural parts of life’s journey.

There is quiet. I’m tired and emotionally raw. I’m not good at small talk, and seek only the company of those that I already know well. And I’m not interested in my own internal angst and noise. I need rest. Solitude.  Simplicity. Routine. Walks. Nature. Dance. Good food. Joy. Kindness.Thoughtful regard. Space to just be. Emptiness to become something new.

There is compassion. Our culture runs from the reality of death, but our hearts do not. We all live on the cusp of losing those dearest to us.  When the inevitable but devastating happens, our hearts invite us to greater compassion for ourselves and others. I hold my mother in a gentle tenderness as she navigates this great loss with courage and dignity, and my siblings do the same. My heart aches as others share their stories of grief and loss. And I’m touched in turn by the tenderness and compassion offered to me by my family, friends and people in my community.

Mostly, there is love. Grief is the flip side of love. When we love fiercely, so too we mourn deeply.  This is death’s greatest teaching: that we are here to love, deeply, freely, fiercely. I will miss my dad, forever, with every breath.  And I will love him fiercely, forever, with every breath.  So too I love my mother, my partner, my son, my siblings, my nieces and nephews, my dear friends, my Self, and my precious life, fiercely, forever, with every breath.

There is transformation. Death is changing me. My outer world may look the same, but I’m undergoing a metamorphosis. The only words that come to me are that I must become big — to span and contain these many ways I’m greeting death, all at the same time — to open my heart wide to my fierce love and deep grief, and to risk this same love and grief for everyone in my life — to show up fully in my own skin and dare the wild ride that is my life — and to honor my father by cherishing myself as he cherished me, and by living by his ethos of personal strength, integrity, kindness, and care for others.

There is remembering. I wear my dad’s watch so he is with me, close to my skin, marking the moments of my life. What is remembered lives.  I will remember my dad, with every moment, every breath, every thought, and every act of kindness that comes my way.  He lives with me, in me, in my family, and all around me in the beauty of this wild and wonderful world he has now left behind.

There is saying goodbye. Peace be with you dad.  I love you. Forever.

A Samhain Teaching: Born Into Life, Born Into Death

Posted on:  Oct 27, 2017 @ 10:31 Posted in:  Sabbats

The natural world and our human psyches turn toward the mysteries of death at Samhain. Cold and darkness descend upon the land, and the wild world shifts into decay and a death-like sleep. In many cultures, this time of year is marked by offerings and rituals to honor the dead, our beloved ancestors.

Death strips us to the basics: every breath is a miracle not to be wasted; every life is precious, sacred; and love, at the end of all things, is what remains.

Usually we don’t like to think about death. Most of us run as fast as we can from the frightening specter that decline and death conjure in us. It is the ultimate irony that the moment we are born into life, with our very first breath, we are also born into death. And we must live every moment, every breath, knowing that we will die, and that everything around us, all that we love and cherish, will eventually come to decay, to death, to dust.

Samhain teaches us that there is no hiding from death. It comes in the falling of leaves, the lengthening darkness and the cold grip of Winter. It comes in our remembrances of our beloved ancestors that have passed on. It comes in the wrenching of our heart as we witness a dear one slip from this world into the next. It comes with the graying at our temples, the sagging of our flesh and the unstoppable march toward our last breath.

And death comes with gifts in hand if we have the courage to show up raw and naked to our pain, losses and fears.

Death strips us to the basics:
that every breath is a miracle not to be wasted;
that each person, each creature and life form, is worthy, precious, sacred;
that life is oh so hard and oh so exquisite;
that pain and loss help us remember what we cherish most;
and that love, at the end of all things, is what remains.

Love is death’s most precious gift to us. Love, not money, possessions, career, social esteem and the many other alluring outer trappings of life, is the balm that soothes us in the face of death. Love is what connects us to those who have passed on. Love calls us to reach out and hold each other in our grief. Love is what joins us heart to heart and soul to soul to another. Love is our best offering from our Deep Self to the world.

Samhain is a time to contemplate the mysteries of death, not from a place of fear and resistance, but from an acceptance of death as a teacher and guide for the living. Yes we are born into life and born into death, and it is this very, inescapable fact that makes every moment so precious, fragile and bittersweet beautiful.

Death isn’t a summons to fear, it is an invitation to love, deeply, wildly, joyfully. And when death seeks us out at the end of our days, let our last breath be a prayer to love.

Excerpt from: A Path of She Book of Sabbats: A Journey of Soul Across the Seasons. Available in ebook and paperback--visit the Path Store.

Photo Credit: freestocks.org on Unsplash

Season of the Sacred Feminine: The Wild Winds of Change [podcast]

Posted on:  May 14, 2017 @ 13:13 Posted in:  Goddess, Podcasts

There are mysteries afoot, strong, beautiful counter-forces that whisper in our ears: the season of humanity is shifting. The Goddess is awakening within and without.

Photo Credit: Drew Coffman on  Unsplash

Our Whole, Holy Womanhood: A Death and Life Story

Posted on:  Feb 19, 2017 @ 20:43 Posted in:  Goddess

I was born into a world that didn’t teach me what it means to be a woman in accordance with my true, sacred feminine nature and power. Instead, it made me see my womanhood as weak, small and inferior, meant to serve and please others. It taught me that power was an outside force, defined and imposed by others, that belonged to the realm of men.

Though I started my adult life on the wrong track, seeking my place and power in a masculine-defined world as an educated, career-focused business woman, my deeper Self had another plan that set me on the path of reclaiming the lost fragments of my whole, holy womanhood.

Our whole, holy womanhood is powerful, with the ability to hold the light, dark, life, death, beauty and wounding of our personal story and shared humanity.

I did feminist graduate studies, ran my own gender-equity consulting business, read countless books on women’s ways and Goddess theology, spent countless hours in therapy and personal development, moved away from the city to a small, rugged island to reconnect with Nature, practiced magic, went to witchcamp, and became a priestess, dreamer and daughter of the Goddess.

Still something essential was missing, connected to the dark, death powers of my sacred feminine nature. This is the story of when this precious fragment returned to me.

It’s the early hours on the day of the Winter Solstice. I jolt awake with the word “miscarriage” screaming in my brain. I dash to the bathroom to find blood coming from me that isn’t supposed to be there at week eleven in my pregnancy. My partner soothes me, and calms me down enough to take me to the hospital. Later that morning, an ultrasound confirms that our baby has died — a child we had consciously conceived and desperately wanted.

Our midwife gives us a choice: to stay in the hospital for a procedure or to let things run their course at home. I’ve been down this road before, having miscarried five years earlier. No one had told me then that thirty percent of first-time pregnancies end in miscarriage, nor prepared and coached me for this eventuality. We had gone the hospital route, and the experience had been disorienting and disempowering. This time would be differently; I would tend my own miscarriage.   

In the darkest hours of the night, in the turning before the new dawn, my womb begins to convulse, releasing the dead life within. For hours, with each release, I collect the tissues of our child in a one-quart mason jar, not knowing which would have been his perfect face, his beating heart, his tiny body, his reaching hands, and his sweet toes. There are no eyes for me to close, or lips for me to kiss goodbye. This indistinguishable flesh, mixed with my life-giving blood, is all my partner and I have to mourn and bury.

In the midst of my keening grief, I remember myself — witch, priestess, wise woman — Holy Whore, Holy Reaper — midwife to both life and death moments with the powers of creation and destruction within my living womb.

The “read more” link below will take you to the SageWoman Blog page.

Read more…

When Death Arrives On Our Doorstep: A Samhain Primer for These Times [podcast]

Posted on:  Nov 13, 2016 @ 10:00 Posted in:  Podcasts, Sabbats

Be the sacred witness who honors the stuff of life — the angst, longings, beauty, horror, struggle, and triumphs — as the crucible of our greater becoming.

Photo Credit: Shellyse Szakacs