Past Life Tourist: Remembering Love


I coax no fish today. There will be a hollow in my stomach as I have run out of brown food and the winter months continue long past the time that spring is meant to appear. It is chance and good favor that I still have the keg of strong rice wine half full. The comforting haze helps to hide the pain of hunger and it takes me far away from this barren waste of my life. No wife to warm my ger, no daughter to cook and sing for me. Both gone, one in death, one to warm the furs of her husband’s ger.  She is Least wife of five but still sheltered by the wealth of the warrior husband who chose her. Who took her from me.

She will eat well tonight, and each night. She will never know the pain of being alone, for she is now part of a clan that is full of women who call her sister, and their children who set upon her lap and play with her hair. Her brown eyes are soft and there is no crease upon her brow. At night as I collapse in my stupor beside the dying embers I sometimes hear her voice among the others as it is carried by the wind to my ears. Happy. She is happy.

Nohai came to my dream world again last night. Dancing for me by the light of a fire, she enticed me with her nearness, and left me gutted as she abandoned me once more. How many times has she taken me as I sleep, only to discard me at the light of day?  My body longs to join her in the spirit world, but each day I awake alone, again to face a cruel day.

Cold breath clouds around me.  I feel the stiff frozen hair on my face and wipe it clear with my bare hand.  Taking my stick I break the thin skiff of ice that has formed over my fishing hole.  I see others standing on the field of ice, watching holes, some with tell tale splashes of red in the snow.  They will eat tonight.  As I stare into the blackness of the water I see no fish, no movement.  I will not.

My body craves the burn of wine and I decide to give this day to the fish.  I stretch my eyes across the frozen sea and watch as the sun wanes low in the sky.  Far in the distance there is movement, as if a person walks from the open sea toward me.  My eyes squint and I try to focus.   It is impossible.  Yet she is there.

She walks toward me, the colorful embroidery of her boqtaq unmistakable.  It is Nohai! I begin to walk to her, arms outstretched.  She smiles and I see the familiar red glow of her cheeks, looking so vibrant and alive, not the grey sunken woman I laid in the ground.  The ice thins beneath my feet but I am without fear.  I reach to her and begin to shuffle faster.  Ice crackles and moans and water begins to rise into my steps.

“Batu-dai!  Batu-dai!” My name circles my ears like a black fly.  I swat it away, running toward Nohai.

“Stop Batu-dai!” Many shouts slow my feet and I finally turn toward the sound.  They have gathered at the shore, men and women of the village and they all call to me.  I see Nokaijin, my daughter among them.  She waves her arms at me.

I turn back to Nohai.

She is gone.

I slow my feet to a stop.  I sink within the ice and feel the frigid waters seep.  There is a moan and crack.  The sea intends to claim me.  I turn and slowly walk through the crumbling ice, sinking and soaking so that my skin is numbed with the cold.  I walk faster as the cold brings the return of my senses and begin to stumble and run, ice smashing open behind me to the blackness of the winter sea.

I fall and slip into the sea.  My body sinks below the surface.  I am swallowed by the depths.

I do not rage and fight but simply allow  the weight of my wet furs to pull me downward.  I look above me, following the last bubbles as they escape my nose and mouth and see the far distant light of the sinking winter sun.  I expel my air and wait for Nohai.

Fierce hands grab me and I am dragged up and out of the water.  I am pulled to shore and surrounded by villagers, all speaking at once, shouting orders and instructions.  My son in law carries me to Nokaijin’s ger and my wet clothes are stripped.  Wrapped in fresh furs and set by a warm fire I am joined by the elders who sit with me and smoke.  They do not speak of what has happened.  They speak of great hunts we have led, great battles we have won.  Wisps of smoke curl to the ceiling and escape to the dark night that has fallen.  Warmth returns.   Rich salmon is placed before me and I eat.

Many springs come to follow many winters.  I am beloved Ovog: Grandfather and have a place of honor at my son in law’s fire.  Many fat sons have been delivered of Nokaijin and I teach them the ways of the hunter, of the fisherman. I wait now, on the ice for Tabudai and Jirghadai to join me.  The sun is warm today and already the fish are coaxed to my hole.  I see their shining silver sparkle and dance as they rise to the light.  We will eat well tonight.

My eye is caught by a flash of movement out across the open sea.  I shade against the low winter sun and my eyes find her at long last.  The red of her boqtaq bobs up and down with her steps.  Waiting always, within the happy years I have spent in my daughter’s ger.   Waiting always for her to find me once more.   She has alluded me since that fateful day in the sea, but here she is at last.  She walks to me over open water and waves.  I smile, enchanted to see the rosy fat curve of her smiling cheeks once more.  My breath is filled with light.  Nohai.

My heart shudders once, a thick thud within my chest.   I drop to my knees, reaching toward Nohai.  She is at last in front of me.  Our hands clasp, eyes lock and we are joined , warm and bright as the winter sun.

I quickly shed the tattered coat of this life and rise with Nohai.

Hello Out There?


I was driving home from work one day, stop and go, hurry up and wait and I had found that blissful space between leaving the mad, fast pace of work and before landing in the mad, fast pace of home.  I was just floating along, enjoying some CBC 2 and letting the thoughts and worries of the day evaporate.  I don’t admit this to many people, but I really enjoy a good traffic jam.  Being locked in place makes it impossible to do anything but relax and get into that in-between space of meditation, visualization, daydreaming.

I like travel days for the very same reason.

 And doing dishes.

And folding laundry.    Just me?  Really?

So anyways,  I was sitting there, happily zoning when someone whispered in my ear.  Tingles shot up my spine and all along my scalp.  My breath caught and I half laughed, half gasped.  “Wha..!?”

Again the whisper, words as clear as if spoken aloud:  “I sent you a present.  You will receive it tonight.”  I recognized the voice, a voice I hadn’t heard for several years.  A voice I missed terribly.

Now don’t get me wrong, I am fairly used to hearing from my dead friends and relatives.  Quite often they send me things like feathers, and song lyrics.  Sometimes they make the street lights go on right when I am looking at them.  Sometimes they make hummingbirds fly right up to me and look me in the eye.  I’ve even had them whisper messages to me, but never before had it been so loud and clear.

“Hey there, friend.  I’ve missed you”  I whispered back, then got that weird smiling through tears thing.   For the rest of the crawl home, I wondered what this present might be.

I didn’t have to wait long.  I stopped to pick up the mail and there was indeed a big, exciting package in there, addressed to me.  What could it be?  I didn’t recognize the return address and had not ordered anything.  I got home quickly, dumped my stuff on the floor and grabbed some scissors to open the package.

I slipped my hand inside.  It was a book!  I pulled it out, froze for just a moment, then started laughing nearly hysterically.

It was The First Phone Call From Heaven by Mitch Albom.

WTF?!  The book wasn’t even released yet.  I knew that because I had been eagerly anticipating the publishing date.  And yet here I was holding a copy in my hot little hand.  The jacket was not complete, and had things like “insert Author bio here” and stuff like that, but the pages were full and I could hardly wait to start reading it.

How the heck did my beautiful, deceased friend pull this off?  This was a mind boggling mystery.  A real life, honest to goodness, knock your socks off miracle!   And to this day I have no idea why this book was sent to me, or what forces came together to bring me that precious gift.

What it did was solidify my belief that our deceased friends and loved ones are always with us.  The more we trust their signs and gifts, the more they will work to bring us their messages.  Trusting what we see and hear is the first step to opening those lines of communication.  Once we remove the voice of doubt that tells us this is just coincidence or that our imagination is getting carried away, once we open to the possibilities that this is really something, then we will begin to truly open to the communications.  Our loved ones have been knocking on the door, trying to get our attention.  If we start to pay attention we will be amazed at what we notice.

So when you smell your Grandma’s lavender hand cream, or see that the photograph on the mantel of your deceased relative has moved, or find feathers in the strangest places, or dimes and pennies keep showing up, or even when you get a book about Heaven randomly sent to you for no reason,  smile and say hello.  They are.

The Empty Chair


The table is set with the finest china and crystal.  My Izzy has outdone herself.  She works diligently to keep our family happy during this holiday season, though in the moments she allows herself to be still she suffers the pain of her broken heart.  She cloaks herself in noise and chaos to keep such moments at bay.

It has been a day of delightful surprises.  Shiny coins hidden away for the children to happen upon.   A lovely red cardinal for Izzy and the girls singing through the kitchen window, bright red against the bleak winter.  And now a fresh blanket of snow to brighten the dark night.

The family sits.   William, my son,  looks diminished somehow, as if the past year has taken some of the air out of him.  His wife, Clara fusses over their daughters, tying bibs and settling them in.   Faith and  Temperance pass bowls of steaming vegetables and soft white buns.  Hudson and Hinton argue with good nature over who shall carve.  Hinton, the eldest, prevails.  The older grandchildren giggle at their tiny table, set beside the fireplace while the younger babes are tended next to their parents.   All have gathered for the feast.  It is a typical scene, one we’ve acted out so many times before, but this time there is a great difference.  This time the room is filled with the presence of the empty chair.  Nobody speaks of it but its presence will not be denied.  They carve, and serve and pour and cut and sip and laugh and talk, comforting sights and sounds.  Their faces glow in the shimmering candle light, tentative joy, tentative sorrow.

I wonder if they know how happy I am to have them all here.

Hinton, my son, finally raises his glass.  His face freezes as he fights emotion.   After a moment he smiles, and toasts the empty chair.  The others join him.   Family.  We come together in good times and in bad.  We share the love and laughter and we hold each other tightly through the tears.

“To our lovely Mother, may her spirit rest.  There is surely a feast in Heaven tonight!”  They smile.   They tap their glasses and wipe their tears.  And soon the memories start and there is laughter.

I sit here in this empty chair, abiding love.  Yes … there truly is a feast in Heaven tonight.


With a Little Help From My Friend


“Good-byes are only for those who love with their eyes.  Because for those who love with heart and soul there is no such thing as separation.” Rumi

Before my friend Janice passed away I had very little knowledge or experience with after-death communication.  Looking back now I realize that those times in my youth where I would suddenly smell that distinct aroma of my grandmother’s home… baking pie, cinnamon, pipe tobacco and just a hint of talcum powder, that it had to be Grandma popping in to say hello.  Or those incredibly vivid dreams when I would awaken from sitting at the table and drinking tea with my Grandpa, and know that he had come for a nice nighttime visit.  Back then I attributed things like that to coincidence, or imagination, or just too strange to be true.

But then Janice crossed over in such a dramatic fashion and I was simply jarred awake to a new level of perception.  In the months that followed I would experience communications and signs that would leave no doubt in my mind that Janice was reaching across the veil and carrying on the conversation we’d started here on this earthly plain.

Way back when my daughter was 7 years old she became involved in a production of Les Miserables put on by our local high school theatre company.  I would pick her up and drop her off at rehearsals and was always very impressed by the dedicated teachers and volunteers who worked tirelessly with this big group of kids.   I had been a theatre major in University and it was years since I had taken part in anything theatrical.  I asked my girl to let me know if she heard of anyone needing help because I would be happy to volunteer.  I was suddenly very excited to get involved in the theatre again after so many years.  Just as long as it wasn’t costumes.   I hated doing costuming.

“Mama, this lady needs help”, my daughter pulled me by the hand and introduced me to Janice.  Bazinga!  Instant recognition.  We were laughing and joking within the first five minutes, and I knew that I was going to have a great time working with her.

And of course, she was the Costume Designer.  Sigh.  Ahhhh well, it was time to dust off the sewing machine, load up the glue gun and fire up the bedazzler, because apparently I was going to make some costumes.

We worked closely together for the next few years.  Janice was the brilliant visionary, pulled by the creative muse that had her flitting from project to project haphazardly.  I was the organizer.  I kept her on task (some of the time), looking after the details so that she could concentrate on the BIG PICTURE.  We were the perfect pair.  I was the Laurel to her Hardy, the Captain to her Tenille, the Tweedle Dum to her Tweedle Dee.  Through production after production we worked diligently, getting hundreds of costumes built, compiled, organized, fitted, ironed, hung up, cleaned and stored away.  The tasks were daunting but we had a group of willing and able volunteers to work with us and show after show we managed to get it all done and looking pretty damn good, too.

But then…. Janice left this world suddenly, during intermission at Beauty and the Beast.  One moment we were laughing together and the next she was gone.  Aortic aneurism, they told us.  It was instant and painless, and she was doing what she most loved in the world.  Her last moments of this lifetime were spent in pure joy.  We would have chosen to keep her here with us many more years, but as far as exits go, she picked a great one.

After the immediacy of the departure, we were faced with getting through the production, helping the kids handle their shock and grief, helping to plan the celebration of her life, and the myriad details that all of those things entailed.  The next few weeks were a blur.  Catching our breath, the three remaining members of the production team began to consider the future.  Who would be the new costume designer?     Would we even be able to continue on as we had been, mounting productions with 100 + kids?  Janice had been a vital part of the team and how could we go on without her expertise?

And that is how I became a Costume Designer.  I volunteered.  And they gratefully accepted.  What the heck had I gotten myself into?

The spring production was Anything Goes.  The size of the cast was just under 100.  The number of costumes needed would be over 400 and of that number about 200 would have to be created from scratch.  I would need to learn how to design a sailor uniform that could be mass produced, design a full, matching wardrobe for Reno Sweeney and her Angels, source 40 pair of tap shoes and keep it all under budget.  Oh yes.  And work full time at my day job while doing it all.

What me, worry?

Funny things happen when you have an Angel on your side.  I began noticing little things.  I would think to myself, “I sure would like to get some matching fur coats for Reno’s gals” then *poof* I would walk into the thrift store and find 4 matching vintage minks for $20 each.  I would need a pin striped gangster suit with matching hat and *shazam* there would be one in the perfect size hanging up with the randomly donated graduation dresses.  Capes, bonnets, bows, velvet, sequins, knowledge, volunteers, sailor hats, and everything I needed or wanted began to show up in the craziest ways.

There is one thing that still makes me shake my head in wonder.  I needed a long length of fake white fur, about 3 inches wide, to trim out one of Reno’s travel outfits.  I had just designed the outfit and not surprisingly the perfect polka dot fabric had shown up in the clearance bin at the fabric shop, the exact right hat had fallen off the top shelf of the costume storage locker and the coolest brass sailor buttons had shown up in my sewing basket (I still don’t know where they came from).  I was rummaging through bags of notions that Janice had stored in her basement.  I pulled out a big bag and inside was, you guessed it, white fake fur.  But the really amazing thing?  It was a long strip of 3 inch wide fabric that was the exact perfect length to finish Reno’s outfit.  I kid you not.

Thanks Janice.

For many more productions, projects and creations I have enjoyed Janice’s help.  She always seems to bring me what I need, helps me figure out how to create what is needed and never stops making me laugh at her shenanigans.

And sometimes I still hear her giggling in my ear, “Suck it up buttercup, it’s time to get things done”.


“I always say to people when they lose someone, ‘Now you have an angel you can call by name,'” Oprah Winfrey

Heaven Sent

Photo by:  Walter Babinski, My American Husband
Photo by: Walter Babinski, My American Husband

” My soul is from elsewhere, I am sure of that, and I intend to end up there.”  Rumi

I rise.  As I leave the weight of my body and of the material world behind I feel a euphoria I have not experienced since putting on this personality.  Leaving the physical manifestation behind feels like music sounds.  I rise.  I rise and all is love.  Fear no longer exists.  I am weightless where I had no idea there was weight.  There is a cloak of fear, a mantle of it that held me in my skin and once I am released it falls away and there is nothing left between my Self and pure bliss.

What I have seen as reality parts like a curtain and there is my home, right there. I experience recognition. This is my home.  This is where I came from in the first place.  How had I not remembered that?  I am surprised at how close it has always been.  The veil was very effective while I was in human form.  Transparent from this other side, I am able to see whatever people and situations come to my mind.  Past, present and future meld into one and all I need to do is cast my interest somewhere and I am there.  Simply, instantly, I experience this most current lifetime.  What was once experienced by mind is now experienced by Spirit.  I see and hear and feel from every angle.  All that I felt and experienced on earth, all that others felt and experienced, and all of the waves and ripples created by every situation.  It is like a vast, musical arrangement and I hear the harmonious chords of each relationship played… a symphony of love and light.

I am still wearing the vestiges of human consciousness and can see that my human mind created every moment of discomfort, drama, pain and fear that I experienced.  I am amazed that I was so attached to the pain that I forgot how to allow the Divine to flow into my moments.  I have a knowing that my purpose in this lifetime was to find my voice.  I watch the pivotal moments as they fleet through the movie of my now Spirit mind.  So many opportunities to be authentic and to speak my truth and I watch as my human self cowered, hiding behind the mask of acceptability.  So many growth opportunities squandered.  There is no judgment, either from my Self, or from the guides that surround me.  I know that Life is our biggest challenge and that I will be given many more opportunities to grow.

I wonder if next time I will remember.  Will I know that the veil shrouds the truth and that the truth is utterly simple?  The only trick to fulfilling my life’s purpose is to feel good.  Just that.  Feeling good allows the divine river to flow and that wonderfully swift current journeys us through lessons and experiences that bring us to our Purpose.  Whatever lesson plan we have devised for ourselves will flow to us faster and easier through joyful means.

It is when we allow our human fears, doubts and wrong thinking to freeze us into inaction that the Spirit team will step in and help us along by giving us the traumatic catalysts for change, like loss, humiliation, imprisonment, despair, or any number of other triggers.  From this new perspective I understand that floating on the river of joy is so much more effective than being kicked along the shore.  The destination remains the same, even if the journey seems vastly different.

Would I choose to learn my lessons through trauma or learn my lessons through joy?  No brainer.  Next time I pick joy.

Gosh I hope I remember that.

These are the Days of my Lives

“What if we had a chance to do it again and again, until we finally did get it right? Wouldn’t that be wonderful?” Kate Atkinson, Life After Life

There is a theory in Quantum Science, first proposed by Physicist Dr. Alan Guth, that there exist an unlimited number of parallel universes.  It is a theory that is based on the discovery that atomic particles not only have the ability to exist in more than one place simultaneously, but that the simple act of observing a particle affects its behavior (the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principal). There are a bunch of other theories out there, the String, the Many Worlds, the Multiverse.  My brain exploded part way through researching this, so if you are interested in getting details, might I suggest Google?

*Disclaimer:  I no talk science good.  Please never, ever reference me as a source for quantum anything.

Now since all matter (including us) is made up of these shifty little particles, it seems to follow that potentially any thought, movement or decision we have made could have created infinite numbers of other worlds, where other versions of ourselves are living lives. 

This was the premise that Kate Atkinson used in her novel Life After Life.  The year is 1910 and the main character, Ursula is born, only to die before drawing her first breath.

And then, Ursula is born, this time surviving and thus begins a series of her lives which has her dying and starting over again many time.  Each lifetime varies based on her decisions, on chance and on the tiniest changes.  It is an excellent book.  I highly recommend you pick it up on your way to the beach today.

Ursula’s many lives got me contemplating my own linear time line and the “what ifs” that have crept up along the way.  For instance….

What if our Brazilian exchange student hadn’t pushed me out of the way of that car when I froze on the slippery road that day, back when I was 12 years old?  In the book of my life, was that an exit? 

Or what if a different Amtrak employee had made a different call that time Emily and I travelled to Michigan to visit my American Boyfriend (now known as my American Husband)?  Our train was delayed because she/he at Amtrak decided to send a freight train ahead of us to make sure the tracks were clear after the wind storm that had blown through earlier.  Turns out the track was damaged and the freight train derailed down a big hill.  When we rolled by in our rescue buses hours later you could hear the collective gasps as we saw just how mangled and dead we would have been had she/he at Amtrak not made that decision.  Perhaps in another world in another time I hit reset and began again.

Then there was last summer.  Severe pancreatitis had me in the hospital for a week waiting on emergency surgery.  What if I had taken a gravol and tried to sleep off the pukiness?  I very well may have woken up dead.  Instead I decided to go see how the staff in Emergency might be able to help and in doing that managed to live to see many more days.  In another Universe did I kick that bucket before fulfilling what was on its list?

In contemplating these potential times of exit, I wonder what the purpose of these many versions of us might be.  Life is a school where we come to learn and grow and eventually graduate.  So if we have taken these exits in other realities, does that count as flunking a test?  Or is it more like passing the grade and getting to take a summer vacation before jumping back in to try another level? 

Regardless of whether parallel worlds is a thing or not, the knowledge that our thoughts can actually create, destroy or change particles at an atomic level sure does make that Law of Attraction “thoughts become things” idea more plausible.  And perhaps a good reminder that worrying only creates problems.  Perhaps even horrible, sick parallel lifetimes where we have to live out the worry fantasies we create for ourselves.

Now that is a terrifying prospect.

Happy thoughts.  Happy thoughts.   Happy thoughts.

*Note to self:  Science is scary.  Just walk away from the Google.





‘As Rosemary is to the Spirit, so Lavender is to the Soul.‘
–  Anonymous

Gnarled and spotted thumb draws circles upon the worn linen sachet.  Careful, careful, I remind myself.  The yellowed fabric now so thin the contents easily bleeds through.  Thin and yellowed, like my skin.  And yet I still live.  Wretched.

I sit on the straight back chair, watching death as it hovers ever near.  This time my husband, Gaspard, breath ragged and strained, lost already in the deep sleep of death but with a body that, ever so stubborn, continues its functions.  How many hours have I sat waiting for death to come and take somebody I love?  I absently stroke the sachet as my mind counts Maman, Papa, young Pierrette, Grandmere finally at 102, and now Gaspard.  All these years I sit and wait for death to come, jealous each time that I am not the quarry.  What cruel God keeps me healthy and breathing?  What cruel God gives me nearly half a century of living after my soul has died?

I brush a bit of lavender dust from the fragile fabric of the sachet, thin as moth wings, powdery.  I lift my hand and breath in, hoping the scent will come, but that scent was rend many years back.  Another time of grief.

There was a dream.  He had been steps away from me in a fog and I chased after him, calling his given name, a name I never dared to have uttered in my waking moments.  I called and called in my dream but he remained just out of sight.  When I awoke I tried to bring his image to my mind but found it had gone.  I panicked then, trying to remember the turn of his jaw, the shape of his brow, the shine in his brown eyes, but he was not to be found.   He was ten years in the earth by then, but I grieved again as if it were a day.  His image, the face I fell in love with, gone forever.  That was another bad year.  The scent of the lavender survived a bit longer, but it too has faded from the world.

My other memories remain viciously clear.  I remember the moment he placed three sprigs, freshly stolen from the botanist below deck into my bare hand.  He was full of mischief, laughing about his crime.  Our fingers brushed and we both held our breath.  My face was reddened and I hid my fluster behind my fan when Gaspard joined us at the rail.  Gaspard did not come above deck often, finding his sea legs were far too uncertain, but on this day he had managed.

“A few days to port.  I am very eager to see land once more,” Gaspard spoke cordially to M. du Pre.  The gentlemen settled in to talk with cigars at the rail and I made my way to the state room to attend the children.  We embarked from home five years hence with three children in tow and since that time three more have joined our family.  The seventh was waiting for home soil.  Swollen with child I berated myself once more.  How could I be tempted so when I was matron, wife, mother, dutiful member of polite society?  And M. du Pre and his beautiful, childless, yellow haired bride, with a waist easily spanned by his long tapered fingers, how could I be so foolish as to believe he would even glance my way?

And yet.

We could not stop our eyes from finding each other and once found, to linger, seeking depths never before known.  I feared that others around us must be aware of our racing hearts for the beating was profound.  Oh I had noticed him looking, searching the dining room, the deck, and then setting eyes upon me, his seeking would end.  And my eyes drawn to him as if I had sight unseen, knowing when he was near, yet uncertain how I knew.  Two flames drawn together, but belonging to separate chandelabre.  We could not seem to resist, though we both knew that the fire would destroy us.

I hid the lavender in my sleeve, and later dried it carefully on the windowsill.

Moments, so few, I replayed them over and over through the years until they became dust.  What words did he not speak?  Handing me down the gangway, his kerchief over his hand lest our skin touch, he looked into my eyes for the last time.  Loosening his grip on the cloth he released it to my care,  a secret gift.  His monogram, AdP stitched into the corner was tucked carefully inside the sachet so that only I can tell that this, and I, once belonged to him.

These two gifts, the lavender and the cloth, sewn together and tucked next to my heart now for forty eight years, are all that I have left of him.  He and I never spoke of love.  We never even spoke our given names.  Propriety won out.  But we did love, of that I am most certain, though that has not always been the case.  I had many moments through the years when I would doubt his feelings, and convince myself that I had imagined the whole thing, read nuance where there was none, or brought my own feelings to bear where his were devoid.  Perhaps he was just polite, being attentive to the matronly passenger who sought the fresh sea air as he did.  Those were some of my worst moments, so much worse than the silent screaming grief that I carried with me.  Did he love me as I loved him?

When we parted, he spoke of reuniting upon his return from Polynesia.  He spoke of a time when we would drink cognac in a parlor and he could tell of his great adventure.  He held my hand a moment longer than necessary and I saw his mouth move, a silent word unspoken.  Olivia.

I smiled politely, waiting until the children and I were in the carriage and had moved beyond his sight before I shrugged behind my veil and allowed tears.

The first parting, ever bittersweet with longing and hope.

The second parting was much worse.  He lived within my heart those next few months, alive in my thoughts every moment of the day.  He was with me when I gave birth to my son, and in all of the moments I sat in a sunny window alone with my memories.  Sewing him in every stitch of the sachet, I could feel him warm against my beating heart, a tender secret.  A whispered maybe.

News of his death was a black feather, stark and surprising, landing softly at my feet.  A parlor filled with smoke and laughter.  Talk of news and gossip interwoven with the steady hum of nonsensical chatter.  Smile affixed I feigned interest in something, my thoughts at the rail, a hint of lavender rising from my bosom.  A word across the room caught my attention.  Polynesia.  I tilted my head toward the speaker, a man addressing a group of others.

“… findings that the expedition made luckily were salvaged.  At the very least he kept good notes.  Terrible shame.  Young widow.”

Voices like ice pellets. Scattered words.

“du Pre leaves a great legacy”…”death on foreign soil”…”young man with great potential”…”dead”.

I rushed across the room, my skirts waves upon the stillness.  “Tell me.  What is this you are saying?” Men staring at me with surprise, but answering my question despite my impropriety.

Anton du Pre was dead, they said.  As was my soul, perished that very day.

Several hands caught me as I swooned and I was removed hastily to the confines of my bed, where I stayed for many days and nights.  When I finally arose it was to begin life as one already dead.  Years passed and no day was spent without thought of him.  I played and replayed our moments together, imagining what I could have said, should have said, and wondering what he wanted to say but didn’t.

A widow with no weeds. A grief with no voice.  A silence so loud and hot and full of tears that some days I could not rouse myself to leave my bed.

I persisted in my duties, smiling at the successes, romances, weddings and lives of my children and cooing at the births of theirs.  I craved the sleep of dreams to once again be with him, for his visits were infrequent, but offered vivid color against the spectrum of gray and brown that was the waking world.  Years of living but not.  Years spent sitting the death watch for so many, but never for the one who mattered.

Gaspard releases a rattling breath and I wake from my reverie.  His face has turned gray, lips parted and purple.  It will not be long now.  Soon he will win the death that I covet.

My hand squeezed the sachet involuntarily and I feel it disintegrate in my hand.  I cry out in despair as I see the fine dust escape the shattered linen and fall to the floor.  A fine whiff of scent, a death knell.  Lavender at last.  I inhale with a shudder.

My gnarled hand releases the fabric. As it floats to the ground I finally see his face, clear as the day I last saw him standing on the pier.  He is staring into my eyes and trying to convey a thousand words with one look.  I reach to touch his face and see that my hand is no longer the hand of an old woman but is once again young and soft.  At last.  At long last.  Years of aching sadness release on a breath and I ride the beating of my heart to the next world.


The Empty Chair

The table is set with the finest china and crystal.  My Izzy has outdone herself.  She works diligently to keep our family happy during this holiday season, though in the moments she allows herself to be still she suffers the pain of her broken heart.  She cloaks herself in noise and chaos to keep such moments at bay.

It has been a day of delightful surprises.  Shiny coins hidden away for the children to happen upon.   A lovely red cardinal for Izzy and the girls singing through the kitchen window, bright red against the bleak winter.  And now a fresh blanket of snow to brighten the dark night.

The family sits.   William, my son,  looks diminished somehow, as if the past year has taken some of the air out of him.  His wife, Clara fusses over their daughters, tying bibs and settling them in.   Faith and  Temperance pass bowls of steaming vegetables and soft white buns.  Hudson and Hinton argue with good nature over who shall carve.  Hinton, the eldest, prevails.  The older grandchildren giggle at their tiny table, set beside the fireplace while the younger babes are tended next to their parents.   All have gathered for the feast.  It is a typical scene, one we’ve acted out so many times before, but this time there is a great difference.  This time the room is filled with the presence of the empty chair.  Nobody speaks of it but its presence will not be denied.  They carve, and serve and pour and cut and sip and laugh and talk, comforting sights and sounds.  Their faces glow in the shimmering candle light, tentative joy, tentative sorrow.

I wonder if they know how happy I am to have them all here.

Hinton, my son, finally raises his glass.  His face freezes as he fights emotion.   After a moment he smiles, and toasts the empty chair.  The others join him.   Family.  We come together in good times and in bad.  We share the love and laughter and we hold each other tightly through the tears.

“To our lovely Mother, may her spirit rest.  There is surely a feast in Heaven tonight!”  They smile.   They tap their glasses and wipe their tears.  And soon the memories start and there is laughter.

I sit here in this empty chair, abiding love.  Yes … there truly is a feast in Heaven tonight.


A Glimpse

Everybody has a story, that sequence of life events that they use to design how they present themselves to the world.  My story began November 15, 2008.  It goes something like this….

Brenda is Broken Open

“God breaks the heart again and again and again until it stays open.”
— Sufi master Hazrat Inayat Kahn

The universe whispers lessons and sometimes you hear and that is awesome, But sometimes you don’t hear. Sometimes you get so busy with life and with the mundane, mediocrity of physical existence that you forget to take the moments to sit in silence and to really listen.  So then the whispers get louder.  And if you still don’t hear them, they turn into shouts so loud that you have no choice but to hear.

My shouts stopped me in my tracks.  My shouts had me cowering with arms over my head wondering what horrible thing would come next. It all began with Janice.

My sweet soul friend and I had worked together for several years, creating costumes for the local high school plays.  So many hours we spent together, planning, shopping, sewing, gluing, organizing and laughing.  Janice laughed a lot.  She had an infectious joy and even in the most stressful of times, she would share the humor of the situation and before we knew it we would all be laughing with her.  A tiny dynamo with energy to spare and happiness in abundance, she spent her life and her last breath in laughter.

It was her night to sit in the audience and watch.  I laughed and teased her that she would cry during “Be Our Guest”, like I had the previous evening.  Seeing all of our kids up there giving it their all, the music swelling, the dancing spoons and forks and candelabras, the cute little salt and pepper shakers, the raucous napkins dancing the can-can, she would be moved as I had been.  And of course she would laugh at herself for crying, as I had.  And sure enough, intermission came and Janice showed up in the green room, laughing about crying, bustling around looking for some velcro to fix the Beast’s boot, talking a mile a minute.  Stooping over and searching through a bag of fabric, her voice ringing with laughter, she gushed about the first half of the show, her pride in the kids and in our accomplishment apparent.  She stood up suddenly, turning to me, and her laughter faded.  She looked into my eyes.  A question.

Hand fluttered to her chest.

“Janice.  Are you alright?”

Eyes simply closed.  I caught her as she fell and laid her gently on the ground.  Her breath shuddered.  She was still.


“Call 9-1-1”

“Get these kids out of here”

“Is a doctor in the house?”

“Where’s Larry?  Go find Larry.”

“Does anyone know CPR?”

A few shuddering breaths, her body shutting down.  I knelt beside her, held her hand and watched the final reflexes of her dying body.    The world shifted beneath my feet.

And then things got really weird.

As Janice left this world she took me on the first part of the journey.  I was crouched on the ground, holding her hand, shouting to Kristen to call 911 and watching Dave and Evan hustle the kids out of the room, then my focus narrowed to the place where my hand was holding her hand and I had the singular thought,  ‘She is gone’.  That is when I left my body and was at the ceiling, staring down at myself holding Janice’s hand. I could see it so clearly and at that moment I experienced an instant of “no fear”. It wasn’t a feeling of peace or of bliss or anything like that so much as it was a feeling devoid of fear, something I had never experienced before. It made me weightless.   But the really crazy thing that happened as I floated there with Janice, is that I could see that I had wings.

Yeah.   Wings.  WTF?

Seeing the wings totally freaked me out and I was instantly back in my body. It made me think that I was the one who had died and my tiny human brain latched onto the FEAR that had up until that point kept me shackled to this reality.  Fear was my brutal grounding comfort.

The next few weeks I thought perhaps I was going a bit crazy. I was in the clutches of grief, but also I was suffering from some pretty intense PTSD symptoms, not getting much sleep, panicking and crying and trying desperately to hide my struggles from everyone. Finally I told my American Husband what I had experienced. I sobbed as the story came out and I am pretty sure he thought I had gone off the deep end.   But being the amazing, understanding guy he is, he told me very simply that he believed me.   He had no explanation for what happened and neither did I … but he accepted that it must have been real.

He believed me.

Does anyone wonder why I love that man?  In the months and years to come I would have many more opportunities to rely on his quiet, sure strength and to be grateful for the solid foundation he affords me.

You see, the Universe wasn’t done with me yet.  Oh no, there were many more surprises in store.  Just about done with the PTSD you say?  Well then, kerBLAM! your other soul friend, Rod, has terminal cancer.  And while you watch by helplessly as his life is slowly tortured away, POW! let’s just take your job of 16 and a half years away.  Not enough stress yet?  Okay, then, SLAMMO! here’s a lawsuit to chew on.  That ought to keep you busy for 2 or 3 years.  And in the meantime, OOF! time to say good bye to Rod.  Now how about a nice ONE/TWO PUNCH! first beloved Sadie and then devoted Wyatt, best dogs in the world, both gone within 3 months of each other.

Did I mention the part about cowering with my arms over my head wondering what in the name of all things holy would be next?

What followed was 2 years of such severe post traumatic stress that I would often have panic attacks that would leave me thinking I would rather just die than to face the daily rigors of FEAR of what would befall me next.  When Janice died, so suddenly in my arms it woke me up to the fact that our time is truly limited. Of course I knew on a logical level that we all die one day and that each of us has our own unique expiry date, but to see it happen, like somebody turned out the light, one moment laughing and full of joy and the next… just gone… well that was the wake up.

This awakening has taken me to some dark places, and eventually to some incredibly light places.  Along the way I have experienced a whole lot of strange and wonderful things.  It began with the wings, but moved on to some even more bizarre happenings.  The roads have led me here, on this path of self discovery, where I have come to the realization that the lessons I learn in this life are even more valuable when I can add to them the lessons I have learned in other lifetimes.  Keeping a mind that is open to everything and attached to nothing is the essential key that fits the locks and opens the doors to so many incredible experiences.  Anything is possible.  And yes, miracles happen.

As for the wings, I’ve done a lot of research, asked a lot of questions, read a lot of books and come to the conclusion that there are about as many theories as there are people.  Some resonated and some did not, but the one that brings me the most comfort is simply that an Angel stepped in and took over in those few moments I was unable to cope.  And as I traveled through the wreckage of my life those next few years I often imagined that if I ever needed her again, that Angel would be there for me in an instant.

Our stories happen to us and it is very easy to become identified solely with them.  For the rest of this life I could walk around and be that victim of circumstances and loss and only that.  Instead I choose to take the wreckage of that time  and climb on top of the rubble and use it as a ladder to something more.  In hindsight I  see that all of the chaos and calamity was really a gift from the divine.  It gave me a glimpse of eternity and opened my awareness to a realm I never knew existed.  I was plain old sepia toned Dorothy opening that farmhouse door to the land of Oz and discovering that the whole world is in vivid, glorious technicolor.

Since it all happened I see things and hear things and know things that defy logic or explanation.  The greatest part of it all is that I no longer have any fear of death because I know it is an illusion.  Only our bodies die, and we cast them off like an old, tight shoe and soar to realms and dimensions we only get hints of now.  We really are spiritual beings having a human experience.  But boy that human part of our experience can sometimes really kick our ass, can’t it?


If you really want to see how high my freak flag can fly, take a look here:   Page 8 (Great book by the way, I highly recommend it.)

For more information on that whole shared death experience, please read Glimpses of Eternity by Dr. Raymond Moody.  Turns out this type of experience is not uncommon.  (A huge shout-out to my friend Joanne for pointing me toward this book and helping me to understand that I am not <completely> crazy.)