MY NEW BOOK, What Happens When We Die, was due to the publisher in December 2011 — and for the life of me, I couldn’t get it finished. The final chapter kept eluding me. I wrote several different possible endings, but didn’t use any of them. Whenever I meditated on what was missing, my inner voice told me I needed to be patient, because I was going to be learning more information that would be helpful for the reader.
My biggest fear was that it had to do with Mom. She had emphysema for at least 50 years and her health was failing. I didn’t want to believe her death might be the missing piece. I tried convincing myself that since I had been through death with many clients, and because my work includes being a psychic medium, I would be able to handle her passing when the time came.
The year leading up to her death was a hard one. My Mom had moved out of her condo and into assisted living, and now they were talking to us about hospice. We never knew if she’d make it back home every time an ambulance took her to the emergency room. She had had so many close calls — and a couple of times the doctors didn’t think she’d make through the night, but she always rallied.
In June 2012, she moved into the hospice program and every day was a challenge. Life went on and we all had our jobs to go to, but she was always in the back of our minds. We checked in on her several times a day and spent as much time with her as we could. Her energy had become so weak and her mind was frail. In her younger days, she was a spunky 5-foot-8-inch tall model at one of our local department stores. She was very active in the recovery community working with drug addicted teens, and she was also a fantastic psychic.
One of the gifts I received from her dying process was the great conversation we had about death and life after death. She could easily see her deceased loved ones when they came to visit her. Sometimes she felt afraid that they were there to get her, and she would shush them away. She always had a story about a visitation with one of her friends. She and I started having the same dreams about being on the other side, visiting places and seeing people we hadn’t seen for a long time. We would compare notes in the morning and it always amazed both of us that we were able to do that.
One of the drawbacks to visiting her was that we would leave feeling very tired. I asked about it one night in meditation, and I heard that we were giving her part of our life force energy to keep her going. I wondered if she was aware of it, and the very next day she apologized for taking my energy. She said she pulled as much energy as she could from us to keep her going. It was astounding to me that she was so in touch with the process she was experiencing.
The last couple of weeks before she passed, she was more in touch with the other side than she was here. It was clear to me that she was living in both worlds. Her soul was detaching itself from her physical body in preparation for her final breath and her physical body was shutting down its systems.
My birthday was September 20 and we all had a knowing that this was going to be the last birthday she would celebrate with us. I sat next to her on the couch and held her hand, feeling very grateful for everything this sweet woman had given me and done for me throughout my life. It was the saddest feeling knowing how much I loved her and that soon I would no longer be seeing her physical body. She put her head on my shoulder and drifted in and out throughout the birthday celebration. She called me when I got home to tell me that she was mad that the party wasn’t so much fun, since this was going to be her last birthday party while alive. I asked her if she had a sense of how soon she would go and she said within the next couple of weeks. There was such a finality in her voice. I knew she knew and there was nothing either of us could do.
On October 3, I woke up seeing her face right in front of mine. I could see she was very upset, so I called her right away. She told me she had had a very bad dream where a man was trying to turn her body into a worm and she didn’t want that to happen. She asked if I would call my siblings and ask them not to call her that day because she just wanted to sleep. It was hard not to call her that evening. It had become my evening ritual to call and say good night, but I wanted to honor her wishes. I could feel she was very busy doing something, but I couldn’t tune into what it was.
The next morning an aide found her lying on the floor. She hadn’t walked on her own for quite a while, so it seemed strange that she would try walking. They got her back on the couch and offered to make her some tea but she declined, which was another strange thing. She always loved her tea in the morning. An aide came back in at noon to check on her. Mom glanced over at her, took her last breath, and died.
While all of that was going on, I had an early morning appointment at the chiropractor. I was experiencing a lot of grief as I watched her go through these different stages. I was also filled with fear that the phone call was going to come at any time.
A half an hour later, my brother called to say that mom had just passed away. Even though I thought I was totally prepared for the call, my entire body went into shock. I stood there shaking, unable to cry. I couldn’t speak. I didn’t think I could drive. I held my breath, not really believing that it had finally happened. My sweet mama had finally passed out of her very sick body and was free to go home to heaven.
I put myself on automatic pilot as I drove home. I had driven that route a hundred times and could drive it in my sleep. I didn’t feel. I couldn’t think. I was numb from head to toe. I asked God to help me know what to do next and I felt guided to call my son’s father. He was always rational about things and I knew he would simply lay out for me what I needed to do as the oldest of the siblings. He told me to cry when I was alone and when I was with others, be strong for them. He said the grief would come in waves and to ride the wave. Don’t try to stop the tears. Let them come when they come. Be in the moment and don’t try to do it perfectly.
We all gathered at mom’s place to sit with her body before they came to take her away. That day will remain one of the most memorable days of my life. My two brothers, sister, sister-in-law, niece and nephew all sat with her for six hours. We took turns holding her hand and sitting by her body on the couch. We cried, we reminisced, we laughed. We were totally united in her passing and I am so grateful for that experience.
I had always wondered if I would feel her presence when she passed away, and the feeling was very interesting that morning. Her soul felt like a whisper. It was so soft and subtle that when I did feel her, I wondered if I was making it up because I wanted to feel her. I didn’t want to pull on her soul by asking her questions. I wanted to let her be so that she could do what she needed to do to move on to the other side. There was a memorable moment, however, when I went in to her bedroom to pick out clothes for the funeral and it felt like she guided me right to her favorite sweater and pearls. I heard myself say, “Thanks, Mom” out loud as I gathered the necessary clothing and then the room felt empty again.
It’s now been a year since she passed and we’ve had several very sweet moments of visitation from her. They are quick as her energy is still low from being sick for so long, but with each passing month, her energy gets stronger and feeling her is becoming much more noticeable. She pops in for brief periods of time to say something encouraging. Sometimes just a “Hi, honey!” keeps me going for days. I’m so grateful to know the soul continues on after death. I feel so bad for people who don’t know it’s possible to communicate with their deceased loved ones. I can also feel that it’s as good for her as it is for us to be able to communicate. To believe she’s there and to feel that her love for us continues is so healing in the grief process for us and for her.
If you are going through the loss of a loved one, I want to share some of the wisdom I’ve gained from this:
- Don’t be in a hurry to get through the pain of loss. Each day is different. Some days your heart will be heavy, others will be kind of normal.
- Talk to your loved one, but don’t pull on them. Don’t ask them to come and take care of you because they’ve got plenty to do adjusting to their new home.
- You can communicate with them, but again, give them space to adjust.
- Cry when you need to. Don’t deny your tears or tell yourself to buck up and get over it. Getting over it will take a while. Your routines will change. You will no longer be able to talk or see that person every day. Be patient with this process.
- Journal about your feelings of loss. You might think that’s dwelling on it, but it’s not. It’s one of the ways we process. Your body, mind, emotions and soul are all experiencing this loss, so be as patient as you can with yourself.
- If you’re feeling overwhelmed, take a day off and let yourself grieve. It won’t last forever.
- Have people help you the first year. I’ve paid bills twice, put things in the cupboard that needed to go in the refrigerator, misplaced a hundred things. Your brain will be foggy at times. Your memory will seem to have taken a vacation.
- Be grateful for your memories. Ever since I can remember, I always bought my mom maple fudge because it was her favorite treat. When she first passed, I’d cry every time I saw it in a store, but as time has passed, it’s become a sweet memory and I’m grateful I have those times to look back on. Don’t be afraid of the memories. Cherish them.
Echo Bodine will talk about her new book, What Happens When We Die, from 1-3 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 12 at The Cottage House, 4304 Chicago Ave. S, Minneapolis, and at 7 p.m. November 7 at Barnes & Noble at Galleria, 3225 W. 69th St., Edina.
Echo Bodine and Kathryn Harwig will answer “Your Big Questions” during their Minneapolis Edge Life Expo event from 12:30-2 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 2, at Earle Brown Heritage Center in Brooklyn Center. Tickets are $30 in advance, $39 at the door. Tickets are available at Edgelife.net, or by calling 1.877.776.5244.