When I awoke I had my Sunday, the first day of spring, all planned—or so I thought. My plans did not include the death of my mother.
At 9am my sister Francine called, and all she had to say was, “Are you sitting down?” and I knew. When she said the fateful words, “Mom passed away today,” the tears came. Tears that I was grateful for; I had always wondered if I would feel anything when she finally died. In the past I had prayed that I would not feel glad, had hoped that we would resolve our differences before this day, for you see, my relationship with my mother was complicated.
Following the rush of tears was my sudden recall of a daydream I had the day before. During my morning walk with my dog Puma, I found myself visualizing awakening from sleep to find the spirit of my mother hovering in my room. She did not speak. In my daydream I rushed to the phone to call my sister, Francine; Mom was living with her. In my daydream I told Francine to go and check on Mom, to see if she was alive, because if I could see her spirit then there was something wrong.
At the time I recall wondering why my mind was creating this odd scenario. I thought about calling Francine, but remembered that she was not at home, she was in Florida on a business trip and would then be flying to the Bahamas for a very long overdue vacation; Francine had devoted much of her time the past nine years taking care of Mom.
At the time I told myself I was being silly, just an overactive imagination. My day got busy, and I did not call Francine or my mother (something I only did infrequently)—and I forgot all about it.
Until this moment. Now, I recalled the daydream and realized it had been something more like a vision—a premonition—a warning call from my mother’s spirit; a call that I missed.
Guilt is a heavy burden, and I felt its weight. And that weight settled more firmly on my shoulders as Francine and Claudine made plans to gather that night and spend the next day together making arrangements. My physical challenges, the same ones that had prevented me from visiting all of them, including Mom the last few years, would once again prevent me from sharing this time with my sisters, my only remaining family.
As we spoke Francine shared what information she had about Mom’s passing. John, her husband, had stayed behind at their home in South Jersey, to care for his elderly dog, Suzie, and Mom. He had been concerned that Suzie might pass while he was away—instead it was Mom that he discovered had crossed over when he brought her breakfast.
As near as we could tell Mom had passed peacefully away in her sleep. Considering how much time she had spent in and out of hospitals over the years—she had suffered a massive heart attack, and acquired a pacemaker and a defibrillator (she was on her second set), was diabetic, and more—the quietness of her passing at home was somewhat miraculous.
More than once Mom stumped the doctors who could not figure out what was keeping her alive. Francine and I had often wondered about why she was still here; over the years she had become an invalid with not much more than TV to keep her busy. I maintained it was sheer cussedness—Mom had a will like iron, and a temper to match—traits that had not mellowed much from the time of our quite dysfunctional childhood. Francine thought that there was something that she had not finished yet, something that she was waiting for. I kept hoping that she was not waiting for resolution of our relationship, as hard as I had worked on clearing my issues with Mom, coming to a place of peace with her and our relationship was something that still eluded me.
As Francine waited to board a plane back to New Jersey instead of to the Bahamas as planned, we shared our thoughts and feelings. It became very clear to me that I needed to do some more shamanic clearing work around my feelings of guilt and sadness.
The universe was kind, Carolyn Riley, staunch friend and shamanic buddy who had assisted me with countless sessions over the years (many having to do with issues related to my mother) was available.
The tears flowed freely as I shared my mixed feelings with Carolyn about my relationship with my mother. Interspersed with the feelings of guilt were feelings of deep sadness—I had lost the one person in the world who understood me best—despite the sparks we struck off each other my mother and I were alike in many respects. Perhaps that was one major reason we had trouble getting along.
One trait we shared was a deep love of animals. Mom always enjoyed my stories of animal encounters, and she was never put off by the wilder aspects of my shamanic life. As a child she supported my intense desire to be with animals, often taking me to the Philadelphia Zoo. In a recent conversation she shared that zoo visits with me as a child were never short, “You had to visit all the animals, and you knew exactly where each one was.”
Another memory surfaced, when, as an adult, I told her about the ceremony that the animals at the Philadelphia Zoo had requested. She was excited and made a trip to the Zoo to obtain a map we needed for the ceremony, and mailed it to me. I felt more grief and guilt as I realized that I had not called to share my recent excursions to the Woodland Park Zoo with her, and I never would be able to again.
As Carolyn and I talked she gave me some homework for afterward. I was to go down to the shores of Puget Sound (literally at the end of my street), and release my anguish, bury it in the sand below the high tide line, so that when the tide came in it would cleanse the heavy energy and smooth it away.
Then she went on a shamanic journey for me. During it I had many more memories surface and quite a few tears. The memories were all good, but I still wished that there had been more—I grieved that our relationship had not been a better one, and now the hope that might change in time was gone.
Carolyn returned from the journey with information and a gift. Blowing the gift into my crown she told me she had been given a bird’s nest with two white eggs with speckles on them. The journey took her into one of the eggs, and her vision gradually expanded to encompass a landscape with a mountain. The vision zoomed in, focusing on me sitting on the mountain, crying. Next to me was my mother and one Carolyn called the Cat Being. Above were clouds in the sky that my mother and the Cat Being had come from.
Carolyn said that my mother was calm and serene. Looking back over her life she had no regrets, all was as it should be. All the while the Cat Being was present. Carolyn described him as being lighter chocolate color that shaded into darker areas on feet and ears, with brilliant blue eyes, and a tail that was crooked on the end like it had been shut in the door. She said he carried his tail held high, and the crooked part stuck out to the side. Carolyn is not well versed in cats, so she could not identify the breed, but to me it sounded like an early example of Siamese.
Carolyn said that my head was bent as I cried, and that my mother smoothed back the hair that had fallen over my face, and told me, “Dear, it is all right,” and with those words she departed back to the clouds in the sky from which she had come. But the Cat Being remained, and approached me where I laid on the ground, and began to knead up and down my back with his paws, working and working the energy. When he finally finished he said, “You will be all right, Rose” then he departed back to the clouds as well.
When Carolyn finished relating the journey to me I was in tears once again, but they were tears of gratitude rather than grief. I had been gifted with a final message from Mom, and so much more.
In the last stages of her life Mom raised purebred cats and showed them. She began her career with Siamese cats, but the conformation of Siamese cats of modern times bore little resemblance to the Cat Being Carolyn met on the journey. His physical appearance reminded me of the Siamese cats of old Siam, and internet research confirmed my original intuition regarding the legend that surrounds them—a legend that Carolyn could have known nothing about.
In olden times the cats from Siam, which sported kinked tails as a breed characteristic, “…were venerated as guardians of the temples. When a person of high rank died, it was usual to select one of those cats to receive the dead person’s soul. The cat was then removed from the royal household and sent to one of the temples to spend the rest of its days living a ceremonial life of great luxury, with monks and priests as its servants. These cats were reputed to eat the finest foods from gold plate and to recline on cushions made of the most opulent materials, which had been provided by the departed one’s relatives in an attempt to receive good fortune and blessings. Once they became temple cats, they were supposed to have special powers and could intercede for the soul of the dead person.”—http://www.siamesekitties.com/infopage.html
When I shared this information with Francine, we felt cheered. Our mother, who loved cats, had apparently been accepted into cat heaven! And that made one of our decisions an easy one, in lieu of flowers at the memorial service we would suggest that people make a *donation to one of Mom’s favorite charities. It could be our offering to the temple.
But I had one more task to complete for my healing session. Jumping on the internet once again I realized that I could catch the incoming tide while walking Puma after his dinner. But the stone that I had intended to place the energy in eluded me, nowhere in my house could a stone be found that would volunteer, and my query indicated that it was not one on the beach. What to do? My next question yielded the answer, it was not a stone that I sought, but a shell.
Delving into my store of shells I immediately found the perfect one—I knew it was perfect because I felt embraced by its energy. It was a mussel, whole and complete with two attached, but open halves. In conversation with John earlier that day he told me that Mom’s usual dinner on Saturday night was mussels, an absolute favorite. I felt gladdened that her last meal had been something that she enjoyed so much; it was a meal that we had often shared on my visits home long ago.
I had thought that I would be placing all the heavy energy of guilt and sorrow into the mussel, but that felt wrong. All of that had cleared during the journey. What felt right was placing an offering of all the good memories with my mother that had surfaced. And so into the open mussel I blew our times together at the Zoo, conversations where we were in accord, our crazy day in Boston where we had so much fun and spent all the money we had, ending up searching for coins lost in the car seats to pay the toll driving home, and finally, an “I love you,” three words seldom shared between my mother and I.
I placed the mussel on the dampened sand on Alki Beach, and watched as the next wave lifted it off and out to sea. As I turned away my gaze was drawn downward. There, by my feet, was a white stone with speckles, reminiscent of the egg in the bird’s nest. Picking it up I realized I had earned another stone for my mesa, and obtained what I had sought for so long—I had forgiven my mother, and we were finally at peace with one another.
For the next article in this series see Sea Star the Seal, Puppy Kisses, and the Wheel of Life.
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Think Outside the Cage
A pioneer in Reiki and shamanic healing for people and animals, Rose De Dan has seen firsthand the profound healing impact of this work on the lives of others. A Reiki Master Teacher, mesa carrier in the Peruvian Q’ero tradition, and animal communicator, she teaches classes, workshops and teleclasses for those interested in learning more about energy medicine.
Rose is also author of the acclaimed book Tails of a Healer: Animals, Reiki and Shamanism, and creator of Animal and Reiki Art. As an animal shaman, she views her role as a healer as one of building bridges between people and animals, and of empowering them to reconnect with Pachamama, Mother Earth.
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