Death Takes the Body, But the Spirit Persists

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Growing up, I had the advantage of a terrific mom. I was encouraged to explore, dream and create my own path. When I was unsuccessful, she was a mix of concerned and forthright. Her expectations were that, while I might be slowed down, I would not halt. But she was not the only mom I had.

I had grandmothers who were incredibly influential in maternal ways. My father’s mother came to this country at the age of 14 with several brothers and sisters in tow. She did not speak English. Nonie was the bravest woman I knew. My maternal grandmother was one of the smartest women I ever encountered. She could parse a sentence, explain life in simple, realistic terms and make any garment I might want, without a pattern.

My aunts were amazing women, too. Trudy, Delores and Marilyn all gave me something I could get nowhere else. My Aunt Trudy had a sense of adventure and spontaneity that was unparalleled. Her Gemini personality was a true challenge for my Taurus ways. From her I learned fearlessness. My Aunt Dee has an uncanny ability to let the chaos wash right over her with a single eye roll and a quiet huff, allowing her to go on her way as if nothing affects her. From her I learned to proceed quickly through the sticky spots in life. And my Aunt Marilyn has the ability to make anyone feel loved. From her I learned to feel safe in another’s home.

Not all of these women are still with me. My grandmothers are long gone and I miss them every day. But they visit from time to time. My paternal grandmother wafts through the air with the scent of her talcum powder or lilacs. Since I live in Southern California, where the lilac tree doesn’t grow, this is quite an accomplishment! My maternal grandmother only visited once, when my son was born. My mother, myself and my son were alone in the house when, in the middle of the night, she tugged on the bedspread.

Recently, one of my most beloved aunts crossed over. My family gathered to hold space with her and we all had a place nearby. Some were by her bedside, while others were traveling to her. I could do neither. The distance was too great for me to be there. So, instead, I witnessed her peaceful transformation from the shoreline of the Pacific Ocean.

Over the years, I have created my own way of being present for those who are leaving my human vibration. They will be known to me again only through the sign they will present to me when they are near. So, as I sat in the morning sun, listening to the crash of the waves and the crunch of the stones of passersby, I reached toward her. It was undeniable; she was ready to go. But, as with all of those who I have said goodbye to from a great distance, she was leaving me and my family with a way to know she is ever present. The sign she has chosen is truly lovely: the large sunflower.

During our convergence to be present for my aunt’s passing, I was reminded that we were not gathering only in human form. Her loved ones on the other side were also coming together to welcome her home. We often forget that the other side is anxious to celebrate our return. During these times, if we are still enough, they will let us know they are close by. We will hear their favourite song as we stroll the isles of the supermarket, see a street sign with their name emblazoned upon it or smell a scent that reminds us they are nearby. Their arms are waiting for those we are releasing.

And when the person we cherish surrenders to the next phase of existence, they leave us with their indelible sign. When we need them the most, in our times of great joy and in our stories in which they were the centre of our growth and the source of great love, we simply need to watch for their nod.

Be alert for those who want you to know they are near…

ShelliAuthor of Circles of the Soul, Marymichelle Lotano has explored the areas of personal growth, meditation and art. Ms. Lotano is currently a full time writer and mother, residing in Carlsbad, California. Visit:


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