I sat nearby my father’s hospital bed, which my family had placed in my sister’s living room. By consensus this would be the best place for all of us all to settle in and hold vigil as he would begin his journey to another home.
As I turned to check on him, I was surprised his eyes were open and those eyes were summoning me closer. He was very purposeful in his gaze. I leaned over the rail to get close to his words, which had been faint and few, as he seemed on this day to be slipping away from this world. With the breath he could bring to his message, he spoke slowly. “They told me I have to say goodbye.”
I inhaled the gravity of the moment, and exhaled my surrender. “Who told you that, Daddy?”
“They were just here with me…there were three of them. They were talking to me. I don’t know them.”
He paused. “One of them is a teacher. They told me I have to say goodbye to you.”
We stared into each other’s eyes.
“What should I do?” he said with the pure innocence of a child. It made me realize that there is a circle in our lives. I smiled and welled up with tears.
“Yes, Daddy, they are right. It is time for you to go. I am glad we have a chance to say goodbye before they take you. I love you. No worries here. We will all be OK here. I put my hand on top of his so I could honor and always remember the feel of his living body. He didn’t have fear, just a wide-eyed innocence and a need for direction. He was a bit confused and seemingly unhappy that he couldn’t bring anything with him.
He whispered, “I love you, too.”
We sat, my hand on his. I knew I had to actually find a way to fulfill the message that was given to him – that we actually had to say goodbye. I knew this would be the clarity and permission he needed to release himself from this world. He was clearly seeking my firm conviction that he should listen to his “visitors” and go with them. It reminded me of the confidence one must have when convincing a youngster that it’s OK to jump off the diving board into the water. You will rise to the top if you let the water do its job.
It felt awkward, painful and also loving…but after a while of sacred, intimate silence, I said “Goodbye, Daddy.” Maybe it was my imagination, but he seemed relieved. “It’s OK to go.”
With purposeful eyes, he took the first step of his journey and murmured, “Goodbye.”
This was really it. The end of our time here together. We had spent the past few months talking about everything we had to talk about, doing everything we had to do, and now these people, who I couldn’t see, but he could see, were here to escort him safely to the other side of the river. His eyes closed and his breathing changed and he had everyone’s blessing to step forward.
People who I couldn’t see had been visiting him for at least a month. Some were his friends who had passed on. Just a couple of weeks prior, I apparently interrupted a visit as I walked into his hospital room. As he noticed me coming in, his eyes widened with concern.
As I approached, he said, “How did you get in here?”
I scrunched up my face, “through the door.”
Then he really got me. I didn’t know if it was his old morbid humor or if he was serious. “Are you dead?”
I studied his face. He looked too confused to be joking with me. I simply said “no.”
Then, he asked about himself, “Am I dead?”
I took a deep breath to adjust to this unusual conversation. In my family’s typical matter-of-fact tone, I said, “No, you’re not dead. Why did you think you were dead?”
With certainty about his conclusion, he reported that Joe, his life-long buddy, who is no longer with us, had been there for a good long time just prior to my arrival.
“Where is Joe now,” I asked.
“Well, he walked out,” he said as he nodded toward the wall.
Some call it chemo-brain, but I call it living between the worlds. It seemed to make all the sense in the world to him, and he appeared more relaxed and grounded when I told him that he was starting to connect to the other side.
Whether a dying person is aware of it or not, I believe they do connect to the other side in preparation for death. Flower essences just enhance that ability to receive a feeling of connection and support from the other side of the river, as you are stepping into the canoe and slipping away from the dear ones on this side.
Flower essences are energetic plant extracts. In other words, they contain the energy of the plant. They are used by holistic healers in remedies and sprays to balance our energy field and help us emotionally. Humans and plants are electrical systems that are bio-compatible. We actually resonate with, and therefore benefit from plant-based vibrational remedies. Each plant has a unique vibration that helps humans in different ways.
Some plants help us connect to higher energies, which can feel very supportive, especially to someone who is preparing to cross over. As their soul force slips away from their body due to illness, it is beginning a process of ascent to a higher realm vibration and existence. These flowers carry a resonant energy that can help people be receptive to the support and connection available to them on the other side. I always provide a selection of these plant essences when someone is making their transition. Sometimes we start the remedies months ahead of time, and they have been very helpful for those seeking a conscious death process.
I often work with entire families when a member is going to die. As a psychotherapist, I can assess what each person needs in order to deal with their own perspective and issues, as well as help them move through the process in the most meaningful way that they can. For instance, common issues that surface early on for some people are feelings of fear, guilt, and helplessness for both the dying person and also their close friends and family. I address these issues in counseling and then combine plant remedies that will help bring resolution.
The essences help move some of the discomfort out of the emotional system, so people aren’t stuck in cycles of pain, stress or regret. One such plant is golden amaranthus. I usually put it in blends for everybody, because it helps people deal with things that are out of their control and gain a sense of connection with a higher order. When that connection happens, their perspective on what they are experiencing can shift in helpful ways.
For the dying person, the essences can help bring resolution to unfinished business that would otherwise cause them to struggle with leaving peacefully. I remember a client I worked with for several months prior to her death. I will call her Brenda. The things that were bothering her the most as we reviewed her life were about not feeling like she had a voice that would be listened to, and that she wanted to be able to ask and receive. I gave Brenda essences to help her speak her truth from her heart to the people in her life. She became clearer with people about what she needed from them emotionally and in terms of what help she needed.
On her final day, she still had the most painful hurt to heal. Time was running out. Her uncle had abused her as a young girl, but her mother never could bring herself to believe this had occurred. I had recently given the mother a blend to help her release the armor of guilt that was making her deny what her daughter had told her as a child. Brenda’s mother needed to feel, on this sacred day, that she was a good mother. How could she feel she had been a good mother and, at the same time accept what Brenda needed her to acknowledge?
During the course of the day, Brenda’s mother was able to release the guilt of the past in favor of giving Brenda the gift of peace. It took courage. I spoke for Brenda at times because she was too weak to talk. However, she was still able to give the affirmative squeeze to her mother’s finger when her mother tearfully apologized for the anguish she had caused Brenda.
“I do believe you Brenda…I am so sorry I hurt you when I didn’t believe you…I believe you.” It resounded in the hearts of all three of us. The room filed with relief. I gave Brenda one more essence to help prepare her soul for travel. In the wee hours of the following morning, Brenda inhaled peacefully and let go.
Photo credit: Kevin Lee Jacobs at A Garden for the House