The first time I experienced death was when my grandmother passed away. I didn’t know what to expect because any other family members that passed away during my lifetime did so much earlier in my life or I didn’t know them very well. It wasn’t sudden. We all knew it was coming since she had stage four cancer. It was more of a matter of when than anything else. I went to visit her with my mom whenever I could. She lived in another country so I only got to see her every couple of months. My mom was up there every other weekend when she was really sick and it became clear that they needed to start preparing for the inevitable. The last time I saw her we spent all day together in the hospital. She couldn’t really do much more than sleep and watch television. I just stayed with her and we would talk in-between when she had the strength. When I said goodbye, I had a feeling that because I didn’t get to see her that often that it could be the last time. I just kind of knew that I wouldn’t see her again. A couple weeks later I was visiting a friend for the weekend and my mom was visiting my grandmother. That Sunday my mom messaged me from the hospital and I didn’t think much of it. My mom isn’t a huge fan of texting so when she does it usually doesn’t mean anything. She calls when she really needs something so I figured if anything happened she would just call me, as she always does. When I looked at my phone, I had a feeling that I should call just to say hi for even a couple of minutes. My mind reassured me that in the past if there was something that was pressing, my mom would call. I trusted my mind and ignored what I felt. My grandmother passed away some time that night.
I know what you may be thinking: that is a really sad story. I am truly thankful that this happened. It seems to be a part of human nature that we remember “bad” things much more easily than the “good”. Someone could have given us the most beautiful compliment this morning, but somehow we still remember if someone didn’t like our pants seventeen years ago. I really don’t understand this phenomenon, but it is absolutely real. This feeling to give my mom a call while she was still with my grandmother in the hospital was incredibly subtle. If I got that feeling and then called my mom, I wouldn’t have remembered it. Sure I likely would have thought, “thank goodness I called yesterday so I had a chance to speak with her one last time”. I wouldn’t have remember the reason why I called in the first place. Thankfully, I said my goodbyes when I last saw her because somehow I knew then that that was the last time I would ever physically be with her. Even with this, I already had my closure. I remember this very clear, yet subtle feeling because I didn’t listen and she passed away within twelve hours. This is the only reason I remember and I can never forget it. I will never forget the power behind that feeling. I am very lucky that I get to feel that way about it because I was ready for what I knew would happen for weeks. What I was not ready for was everything that followed her transition. I loved my grandmother very much. I wouldn’t say we were extremely close like some of my other cousins were with her because they all lived in the same country. I only got to see her once a year and even less so when I was at school. I personally don’t believe that we truly disappear after death. The way I understand it, my grandmother is in my heart and that is equally as powerful for me. I can feel a connection to someone’s spirit no matter where or when they are. Even though she is no longer in a physical form and we cannot communicate over the telephone anymore, she is still here in a different way. Granted, my point of view could change if one of my parents or close family members passed on. I can only work with what I know for now. Ever since her passing, I have felt closer to her than ever.
My grandmother gave me the most beautiful gift when she passed on which was to always trust what I feel in my heart. I wouldn’t say that I am psychic now or anything like that. I didn’t have a feeling and then think, “oh I must call my grandmother because if I don’t she will be gone by the morning”. I don’t view intuitive feeling that way. I felt this call to connect with her, but I didn’t receive any details. I didn’t know that this would happen. It just so happened that that was the night she died. Whenever I think back on it, I needed to learn to trust my heart far more than I needed one last goodbye. I already said goodbye weeks prior. One of the few things my mom and I have in common is the way we think of death since what matters more to us is the totality of the relationship instead of the last moments. For some, the last moments are very precious. It may be connected to how you feel about death, what you believe the space between death and life is, etc. There is no wrong way to feel about it. My mom has so many memories with her mother and for her it wasn’t the last moments that made the relationship, it was the years they had together over my mom’s lifetime. I always tell people I love them whenever I end a conversation on the phone or if they are leaving to just go out to get groceries. Nothing in this life is guaranteed, accidents happen all the time. They may not happen to us regularly, but they do happen. For whatever reason, I can’t forget that. Even when I am so upset with someone or in some sort of argument, I say within an hour that I love them (depends on how bad it was and how long of a cool down there is). My grandmother knew how much I loved her over the duration of our entire relationship. What I really needed was to learn how to trust myself moving forward. There was a lot going on around the time that my grandmother was sick. All of it stemmed from this place of me not trusting what I feel. I ignored it up until that point because I didn’t think it mattered. This is the only time I could see very clearly that what I felt wasn’t random. I needed this more than anything in my life at that moment.
Following your heart doesn’t seem easy all the time when your mind has different plans. Weirdly enough, what happened with my grandmother was a low stakes situation because of the way I view death. For someone else, this would be devastating and filled with regret. That would be totally justified. I really needed it to happen this way to see that when you pay attention to your heart, things shift immediately. You cannot waste any time. I was in the worst spot of my life and had no idea my lack of listening was the cause. I really needed something that would give me that push. My grandmother’s death was a push large enough so that I would definitely pay attention, but not so huge that I would get lost in grief. Everything happened within such a small window so the message was crystal clear, no two ways about it. There was no room for any excuses or for me to say, “well maybe it doesn’t mean that”. I could not ignore the fact that I felt to call her, decided not to, and that was my last opportunity. It wasn’t in a negative way, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that there was something more there and that it wasn’t up for discussion. You need to find the way that your heart communicates to you and always be open. I was so closed off at the time to my heart that I wasn’t listening to anything it was saying and it was causing me so many problems. It was only after when I understood through that experience the power and knowledge that I had within and that I needed to start listening.
When I allowed my heart to be my guide, everything changed. This did not happen overnight. It took nearly ten months. I am that stubborn sometimes. It was definitely because I was so afraid that a lot in my life would have to change. I was right because I was basically living under a rock where I could hear the pleas of my heart to listen. Meanwhile, my life was falling apart. I was falling apart, for completely different reasons that were there long before any of this happened. This was loud enough so that even under that boulder I didn’t have a choice of whether I wanted to hear it. During those ten months, I never forgot the wisdom. It took me awhile to crawl out from under the rock, but I made it. Her Love* was everywhere with me. It was guiding me in ever situation since the day she died. Every time I ignored my heart, I felt the same way that I did when I did the night she moved on. Every time I tried to get back underneath the rock, I knew it was time to gather my strength and face whatever I needed to head on. She also helped me understand and heal so many situations that had the same energy, way before she was sick. I was able to piece myself and life back together. As an expression of Love, even in “death”, she was my closest guide. I believe it is still important to grieve and mourn in the way that we need to for as long as we need to. This is not about totally disregarding who she was when she was alive and here. She was a remarkable woman and generous soul that changed the lives of her loved ones (that was a lot of people). This is about recognizing the eternity of the soul and that her spirit after death is just as important as when she was alive. Her Spirit as a form of Love has always been here, before and after physical death. You can understand this without being insensitive about death or as some sort of coping mechanism to emotionally bypass the inevitable. It really depends on what you believe happens after death. Whatever feels real to you is all you need to know, no matter how it manifests. If what you feel comes from Love, there is no reason to fear death.
It can be easy to oversimplify death and describe it as transition. I use the word transition to refer to death because as I mentioned before, I don’t believe anyone is completely gone just because you cannot perceive them in the way you were used to. My connection to my grandmother strengthens everyday. Death is not something that can be contained with words. It is always happening and omnipresent. Everything around us is going through the cycle of life and death. We are always witnessing the end of one being and the birth of another, whether we realize it or not. I am sure there are times when you feel like you have died and come back a totally new person. That is an equally powerful transition. We are forever changed when we feel the cosmic energy of death. It is an immense shift, unlike any other. Whether we witness it within ourselves or someone else, we learn that we don’t have control over what happens in this life. We all have our own personal timeline and know who we are meant to be along the way. We can sense those who have gone through this same experience. We know who has been through death and come back because they have this way about them. They have so much compassion, wisdom, and Love to share. Sometimes it takes letting go of a previous identity in order to land in that place.
With her death, I was reborn. One of the most important lessons I needed in my life was to use what I feel in my heart as my compass. Every single instance I of pain I have ever felt was because I was not listening. This was being reflected in every area of my life. It was in my mental health, emotional health, physical health, academic life, family relationships, romantic relationships… it was absolutely everywhere. Before this I would look around and wonder what the f*ck was going on. What was causing this mayhem?What did they all have in common? Me. Through my grandmother, I learned that what every single situation had in common was that I was ignoring my heart and experiencing the consequences. Once I realized this, I had no choice but to make a change and my life was unrecognizable afterwards. There was suddenly no more room for bullsh*t. There was no more room for me pretending not to understand what felt in alignment for me and what wasn’t. I was able to lie about it to myself before and very well. My grandmother helped me to know better. As soon as I knew better, I had to do better. I had to show up for myself with Love. Anything else would be me actively trying to not do my best. I couldn’t live with that. I would be dishonoring her and myself if I did. There are also so many simple lessons from death. We have a finite time here in this existence. I couldn’t waste anymore of my life not being myself and creating from Love. One day, you and I will both move on. For someone else, our Spirits will be here. They will receive the unique Love you decided to create and give in whatever form they need, if that is what you choose to do while you are alive. We don’t carry our bank accounts, credit cards, houses, phones, books, clothes, educations, etc. with us. The last time I saw my grandmother on Mother’s Day, she was surrounded by people that appreciated and deeply loved her. I love her spirit. Her soul is eternal. Not everyone will perceive her that way and that is okay. Her Spirit is meant to be here for those who are meant to receive it. Yours will someday too.
When we have seen death in our own lives and come back completely new, we know that there is nothing we can’t face. The changes I needed to make were hard. I wasn’t used to being myself and making decisions from Love. But when you go through something as difficult and magical as that, you know you can conquer anything else. There is truly nothing more uncomfortable than the change that happens within you. Everything on the outside comes and goes. You are stuck with you for a very long time. When you go through death, something needs to die. It is very uncomfortable to live with the part of you that needs to die and then even more uncomfortable when it eventually disappears. We get so used to a certain threshold of being uncomfortable that when even more discomfort seems to appear on the horizon, we resist. We don’t know the Love that awaits us on the other side. There is nothing more easy and graceful than knowing yourself as Love. The hardest part is over.
I never felt an intimate connection to my ancestors before this. I didn’t understand when people would talk about things like connecting to ancestors, ancestral wounds, ancestral healing, etc. There is a time and a space for everything. We all come to understand in our own way if we are open and we are meant to. I feel completely protected and connected to my grandmother as one of my ancestors because of this whole experience. It is not some sort of abstract concept to me. I directly saw what happened when I began to pay attention, even to the smallest things and saw their impact. Paying attention with an open mind and heart will give you everything that you need. You don’t need someone to die in order to know the wisdom that surrounds you. They are all different dimensions of Love in different forms, waiting to shower you with knowledge. Your ancestors have exactly what you need in the form that you need it. I used to think of my ancestors as my great great great great great great great grandparents. I have no idea who they are. I am unsure of the official definition of “ancestors”, but open it up to anyone who came before you. That is more than the perfect place to begin.
When we face death, it reveals our Truth. I love my grandmother so much because of who she was as a human and for guiding me to the Truth of myself everyday. I don’t hear her telling me what to do or see her when I am in the kitchen making dinner. I feel her all the time. She showed me my soul. That is the greatest gift I could have ever asked for. I didn’t even know it was possible. I had no concept of what that would look like and there is still so much more to uncover. I just needed the push to begin exploring that relationship. It is a gift that continues to create within itself, the gift that keeps on giving.
As you can probably tell, I feel very connected to my grandmother’s death and everything that it brought into my life. When something dies, something else is born. It may not be as linear as you expect. We are all connected to the cycle of life and death in this way. How are you connected to death? How has death brought you life?
with love, katie
*Love/Higher Self/God/Source/Spirit/Creation/Consciousness/Unmanifested/The Eternal/Soul/Everything/Nothing/All That Is/Infinity/The Unknown/The Witness/Being/… you fill in the blank…