When the time came to say good-bye to Daphne, my first baby, the universe aligned to ensure her brother Seamus would not be alone.
Seamus was our special needs dog. We adopted him in 2011 from Buffalo Pug and Small Breed Rescue. When he joined our family, he was about six years old. Prior to that, he lived his life at a puppy mill. From his demeanor and posture, our vet theorized that he was the stud and spent very little time outside of a small cage.
Being a mill dog and accustomed to being part of the pack, Seamus took to Daphne right away. She was the alpha dog and eased his transition into our home. Without her, even though from the moment he met me he was attached, I don’t know if our home would have become his. It took him a good year and a half to become comfortable enough to not feel the need to keep himself awake.
Knowing this, we worried how Seamus would handle the loss of Daphne. Especially since I was pregnant and a baby would be joining our family in a mere six months.
To make things easier on Seamus, we knew we needed to get another dog. Which, to be honest, was the last thing either my husband or I wanted to add to our pile while I was pregnant, but we reasoned it was the best thing for Seamus.
At the time, a puppy was out of the question. Neither my husband nor I (or Seamus) had the time or patience to house train a puppy or deal with a puppy’s energy. Plus, there are so many dogs out there that need a home, we decided to adopt. To find a dog to fit our family, I went on the Buffalo Pug and Small Breed Rescue website. Unfortunately, we knew we were also not in a position to manage another high-needs dog like Seamus and none of the dogs available for adoption at the time seemed to be a good fit. So upon the recommendation of our vet, I checked out Joyful Rescues, another non-profit animal rescue. And there was Rodney.
From the description, Rodney appeared to be a perfect fit. He was a pug, our breed of choice. He was ten years old, the same age as Seamus. And, he had come from a family with children. According to the website, the only reason he had been surrendered was because his previous family had gone through a divorce and could no longer provide for him. Not only that, he had JUST been surrendered and his profile posted that day.
I felt the universe was aligning. And the serendipities continued. When I called the rescue, I spoke to the founder who, having also recently lost her pet, was eager to make this match work. She encouraged me to fill out the application and we arranged to meet Rodney two days later. If we liked him, at that point we could take him home.
And we did. Rodney fit right in. So much so, that while adopting him people who walked by thought he was already part of our family. They thought Seamus was the one being adopted… I did mention he was our “special” guy.
A few days after adopting Rodney, we said good-bye to Daphne. Then a few months later, we welcomed our Baby Girl.
That was our family. The five of us. For several years.
Until this past fall, when we had to say good-bye to Seamus.
Rodney, unfortunately, was not been the same. A sadness came over him. Which we were warned of and we tried to manage by giving him extra love. We even started bringing him to my aunt’s on the days she watched Baby Girl so he wouldn’t have long days to himself. This seemed to help.
But, the inflammatory bowel disease, a chronic disease he has had since we got him, continued to worsen. Since his bowel movements became more and more unpredictable, we found it harder to bring him to my aunt’s and we could no longer allow him to sleep in bed with us.
And, he continued to steadily decline. He would refuse meals and treats, which for pugs is unheard of. He would stay in his bed in the kitchen instead of snuggling. He was having more bad days than good.
Watching his behavior, my husband and I saw the writing on the wall. We knew the inevitable was coming. He was nearly fourteen after-all. So we asked each other and ourselves, “Is he in pain?” “What is his quality of life?” “How will we know it is time?”
I shouldn’t have worried so much about these things. One day last week, I woke up to another mess in the kitchen. And while it wasn’t the worst we had seen, upon hearing Rodney’s stomach gurgle, I had the conviction that it was time. While he didn’t tell me, like Daphne did, I just knew.
The important things in life, you know. You don’t have to mull over them. That certainty sets in.
And that was the case with this situation. it was time. He went peacefully. We will miss him. At least we know Seamus was there waiting.
Fifteen years ago today, my life changed forever. If you read my Blog, Hit on the Head, you recall I was in a significant car accident.
Fifteen years is really a LONG time. It’s a little less than half my lifespan. Soon, I will have lived more of my life after the accident than before. At this point the norm that was imposed on me by the accident, which includes but not limited to my inability to drive, is all I remember. At this point, remembering the Dawn I was before the accident, is hard. And yet, despite this extensive timespan and the memory lapse, the anniversary is always tough.
The dreaded anticipation of the anniversary begins each year after my January 22nd birthday. Each year, I tell myself this year the anniversary isn’t going to bother me. Again, 15 years is a long time. I should be over it already, shouldn’t I? But each year, it does bother me.
Each year the two weeks between my birthday and the anniversary goes a little like this:
This has happened each year. This year has been no different.
Desiring to break the cycle, this year I have done a great deal of reflection. And I realized something. Do the steps look/sound familiar to you? If you’ve taken an introductory psychology class they probably do. They are the five stages of grief.
Realizing I have been experiencing the stages of grief, initially I was confused. I didn’t die… I lived. What did I have to grieve? Upon further reflection, the accident was a mini death and my own Near Death Experience.
It was not a typical Near Death Experience as I don’t believe that my heart stopped and no one needed to resuscitate me, but it was my brush with death. For all sakes and purposes, I should have died that day. After being hit by three 18-wheeler trucks, sliding under one and having the top of my vehicle sheared off, and being buried by thousands of pounds for metal pipes, my survival was truly a miracle.
Unfortunately, my memory of the day is shoddy. The gaps, and there are many, have been filled in over-time with details provided by court reports, bystanders and newspapers. There are two memories I believe to be my own. First, I clearly remember a gold car and bright lights ahead of me. I also recall an impassioned desire not to die.
The bright lights occurred moments before the accident. As I recall them ahead of me, I perceived them to be a gold car shining their headlights brightly in front of me. From the accident reports and investigations by accident reconstruction experts, my account is faulty. While there were eight cars in the accident, none were gold. Additionally, I was hit from behind so I would not have seen bright lights ahead of me. I know this to be fact. Experts have testified to it. But I can’t shake the memory.
I’ve spent hours trying to reconcile the discrepancy between what I wholeheartedly hold to be true and the reality of the situation. After reading about Near Death Experiences where individual after individual recount a bright white light, I’ve begun to question… could this gold light I observed be a result of a Near Death Experience? Was my belief that it was a car and headlight a rationalization of the situation I was in?
I believe that is what happened.
Especially considering my next memory. Despite being a ping pong between multiple semi’s, the entire accident likely took less than a minute from start to finish. Fortunately, I don’t recall any of those details. All I remember is the desire, in every inch of my body, not to die. I remember reaching up to rescue workers insisting I was not going to die. I needed to come back.
Needed to come back from where? That I don’t recall… but from bystanders’ accounts, noise wasn’t heard from my car immediately. In fact, from initial assessments (mind you the car was buried and so they had no access to me), I was a goner.
I wasn’t a goner. And I was insistent I was going to live. In my moments of sadness, I remind myself of that. I honor my experience. And, I get through another year.
Hopefully with this self-awareness, next year will be easier!
In last week’s Blog, I spoke about my grandfather’s passing. It occurred on Thanksgiving, which, while sad, is not particularly uncommon. Many of us lose individuals around the holidays. I personally have lost both grandfathers, two great aunts, a dear friend and a step brother.
Why might this be so?
Last week, I discussed the common things people experience and do before they pass: They See the Other Side; They are Visited by Deceased Loved Ones; They Check Items Off Their Bucket List; and, They Say Good-Bye. Many of these are accomplished during the holidays. Let’s take a look…
The last two, checking items off their bucket lists and saying good-bye to loved ones, are the most easily demonstrated.
Checking Items Off Their Bucket List – How often do you hear an individual who knows the end is near hope to make it to a specific date or occurrence. They may say, “I hope make it to Christmas” or “I’d love to make it to the end of the year.” This arbitrary date becomes a concrete and specific goal or item on the bucket list that is attainable. But, once they hit that date or occurrence… what’s next? Some don’t know. And for some, hitting this goal becomes an accomplishment allowing them to be ready to let go of the earthly plane.
Saying Good-Bye – During the winter holidays (or any holiday for that matter), we tend to see family members and friends we haven’t seen in a while, perhaps since this time last year! Feeling joyful and nostalgic, we carve out time for those we love that we may not at other times during the year. I know I do. Because of that, the opportunity to visit with loved ones is easier for the individual who knows they are passing. It takes less energy to gather everyone and say good-bye. Instinctively knowing this is likely the last time they will see a loved one, it gives them the opportunity to pass in peace.
As mentioned, it is obvious how the first two are accomplished during the holiday season. The next two are a little less apparent.
They See the Other Side – When I described the other side last week, this was explained as a physical ability to get that glimpse of the other-side. To see the other-side, however, an individual doesn’t just see it with their naked eye, they can also feel it in their heart. That’s what happens this time of year. Because regardless of one’s faith… Pagan, Christian, Buddhist, Jewish, etc… the holidays we celebrate remind us that out of the darkness comes the light. This light, this heaven, brings peace, love, joy and most of all hope. Hope that there is something bigger at play and that the universal God, whatever you call it, saves us. This thought brings comfort to individuals here, but especially those who are passing whose faith may have waivered. It reminds them that there is more to life than what is here. Not only that, the faith and hope provides a glimpse of what the other-side may be like… making passing less scary.
Visits from Loved Ones – Again, last week I described this as visits that may have been with the naked eye or in dreams. During the holidays, while individuals may not see their deceased loved ones, during the holidays it is impossible to not be visited by their memories. It might be stories families told around the dinner table, written in the cookie recipe you make or traditions you keep, and maybe even be heirloom decorations that are pulled out. These memories bring our loved ones close to our heart. And we yearn to be closer with them. I see this all the time… I’m busiest around Christmas and Easter. That yearning for reconnection can make passing easier.
While this just scratching the surface of why it is not uncommon for people to pass around the holidays, it can hopefully bring comfort in knowing that many pass because they are happy and have found peace.
November is a month that is bittersweet for me. I love Thanksgiving. As we prepare for the holidays, I am overwhelmed with gratitude for all the blessings in my life (check me out at Instagram to view my 30 Days of Gratitude Challenge). Unfortunately, November is also tainted with a sadness. Both my grandfathers and my step-brother passed around the holiday (for the story of my step-brother, click here).
You are probably thinking, “Wow! So much death around the holidays – how sad!” It actually isn’t uncommon for loved ones to pass around the holidays, I’ll talk about that a little more in a future blog.
And to be honest, even though I grew up knowing my paternal grandfather passed on Thanksgiving, it didn’t phase me. I never knew him. In fact, the first time my mother “met” him was at his funeral. My parents were planning on travelling to NYC that Thanksgiving and announcing their engagement, but instead of celebrating the happy news they were celebrating my grandfather’s sudden death. He had been suffering symptoms while preparing Thanksgiving dinner. Convinced to see his doctor, he suffered a massive heartache while sitting in his doctor’s office.
His passing was just part of his story. It just was.
My maternal grandfather’s passing, on the other hand, was much harder. I knew him. We were close. And while he was ill, he had lung cancer, and we KNEW he was dying, we didn’t expect for him to go so quickly. In fact, being as his birthday was just a couple days after Thanksgiving and we knew it would be his last, we had a large birthday party planned.
He didn’t make it. And that was hard.
It wasn’t the concept of his death, however, that was hard. I’d had family members pass before. I’d even had a friend I’d known since elementary school pass the year before. So I was keenly aware of the concept of death and what it meant.
What was different about this was witnessed some of the things a dying person experiences that assists them with their transition.
Here is what I learned from my grandfather’s passing:
When my grandfather told me he loved me, I knew I was never going to see him alive again. And sure enough, less than an hour later, the phone rang. I remember sitting at the top of the stairs and starting to cry before my mom even got off the phone. It had been my grandmother letting us know “Al was gone.” When they arrived home he went upstairs to his apartment, she stayed downstairs to let the dog out. When she made her way upstairs, he was already gone.
He was ready. He had done the things he wanted to.
Each November, these memories flood back. They are bittersweet… and while sadness floods in at first, I am immediately reminded and comforted that we had that one last Thanksgiving. Love you Grandpa!
My husband lost his grandmother this week.
Last week we found out she had terminal, stage four cancer. So we knew it was coming. But, we didn’t know when. Fortunately, she didn’t suffer too long and went peacefully.
Despite the peaceful nature of her passing, my husband is taking it particularly hard as it brings back the memories of his father’s passing. Don’s dad passed suddenly when he was ten in a motorcycle accident. It is a pain my husband has carried with him for the last twenty-five years that only in the last year with the help of a fantastic counselor, Frederick Marschner, has he been beginning to deal with.
His healing has been a long process as it extends beyond just his dad’s death. You see Don’s parents were divorced when his dad died and his father had custody. So prior to his father’s passing, Don and his brother lived with his father and grandmother. As a result of his father’s passing, his mother subsequently obtained custody and moved him and his brother hundreds of miles away from his grandmother and the only life he knew.
The death of his grandmother brings some of this to the surface. He is faced with going back to the place his father passed. He faced a sound in his uncle’s voice that he hadn’t heard since his dad died. He knows he’ll be seeing family he hasn’t seen since his dad’s funeral. The biggest fear, he will find himself at his father’s grave, as it is right next to his grandmother’s.
These are the typical emotional concerns any individual would face upon a loved one’s passing. In addition to this (and perhaps in an effort to not feel the grief) Don is worrying about practical issues. As you probably know, both my husband and I are self-employed. As such, neither Don nor I can just call into the office and say, “There has been a death in the family, see you next week.” Rather, we are responsible for getting our affairs in order before we leave for the services.
Looking at this week’s schedule (it was a busy one!), the prospect of having to make more than a dozen calls to reschedule quickly became overwhelming to him. This caused him begin to doubt whether or not it was worth it to go down. Fortunately, he quickly realized he would have regrets if he didn’t go. But, still trying to avoid the hassle of managing our schedules, he encouraged me to stay home.
Knowing this was a knee-jerk reaction to the amount of work that was quickly piling up, my response without hesitation was, “If you are going, I’m going. Family comes first.”
At first he didn’t accept that. He worried about the clients that were scheduled. He worried about my professional relationship with New World Gifts, WillowLight and more than anything Buffalo Underground, a group I would be offering a class to for the first time. He worried about everything.
More firmly I repeated, “Family comes first.” Followed by, “What good is my gift, be it to communicate with loved ones or provide spiritual support during times of grieving, if I can’t use it to help my family?”
He began to offer objections. But I cut him off telling him, “If my clients don’t understand that, they are not meant to see me nor do I really want to see them.”
As it turns out my clients, at least from what I can tell, have been understanding. And, rescheduling was a lot easier than my husband anticipated. Within a couple hours, most people were rescheduled as they understood that while death is the one thing in life that in inevitable, it is also something you can’t plan. They also understood that family comes first.
Let’s talk death and dying. Death is something we all, at some point, will experience. It is one of the few things in life that is inevitable.
Despite being something that everyone experience, there are a lot of unknowns about death. Where do we go? Do we in fact go someplace? Or is death an end to everything? If I do go someplace, could it be bad? Is there a hell? If there is, did I do something that will doom me to there?
People often also wonder, does death hurt? Am I going to suffer? Am I going to know when it’s time? Am I going to end up alone?
With questions like these, it’s no wonder people fear death. I know there is a part of me that does when I think, ‘What really happens to me?’
Fortunately, for me, I have a little bit of inside knowledge from all the loved ones who have come back and shared a glimpse of the other side. And this is what I know…
First and foremost, when we die we leave everything we know behind. We shed our corporeal body, the way we touch, feel smell, see and experience the world around us. Food tastes different. Music sounds different.
I also know that when we die, it’s sad. Why? Because even the biggest hermit out there is leaving SOMEONE behind. Someone they love. Someone who loves them. And, it is inevitable that it’s going to be days, weeks, perhaps years before you are reunited. That’s scary. I know there are somedays I have a hard time be separated from my daughter for the six, eight, ten hour work day… the thought of being separated from her for not only days but likely years is heart wrenching…
So no wonder death is scary. But then if we think about it, all the events that have sparked personal growth and evolution have been scary. Think about going off to college. Moving to another city or state. Getting married or having a baby. All these things in life are scary. And the fear boils down to one thing, uncertainty.
I wish through what I do I strive to eliminate, or at least minimize the uncertainty of death for my clients and their loved ones. But unfortunately, due to my own limited understanding, I am only minimally successful. Even within my own family.
Despite the negative aspects of death, when my clients ask questions like, “How can I make my mother or father’s passing smoother?” Or, “How can I assure them they are going to be okay?” And, “What can I do to let them know it is okay to pass?” and “Are they okay?” “Is death painful?” This is what I tell them…
First and foremost, I tell people that when an individual passes they are reunited with the loved ones they knew here and well as some of their soul mates that didn’t incarnate with them this lifetime. Very often you’ll see glimpses of this before they pass… for example, my grandmother who suffered a paralyzing stroke on a couple occasions when I’ve visited her has abruptly stopped our conversations, gazed off into the distance only to return to the conversation saying “It’s so pretty there!” and begin talking about my cousin Keith or Christopher, or perhaps my Uncle Dennis… all three of whom have long since passed. When she does this, I am quite aware that the reason she talks about them is because they just came to greet her. She had a glimpse of the other side. And they are waiting.
This gets to my second point, the other side is beautiful. It is filled with love. No more pain. No more sorrow. Just love.
And, despite what it might look like. The moment of death is not painful… it is only the illness, the process, that causes pain. I liken it to giving birth. The pregnancy. The Braxton Hicks. The contractions. All of those components of birth are painful. But the actual delivery, that moment the baby bursts forth and is born is not painful at all. It is actually a relief, and in some instances almost joyous. So once the soul is released from its body, there is no pain.
Now these words… these thoughts may not bring consolation to the individual facing death and it can still be scary. And to alleviate that fear is hard…. If not impossible. It is why we sometimes see people hold on with everything they’ve got only to wonder, what are they fighting for? Anything has to be better than what they are enduring.
It’s for those with family members in those situation that I offer this advice to smooth their passing. Say Goodbye AND Find Your Own Acceptance.
Coming to peace with a loved one’s passing (just as with your own), releases psychic connections to your loved one on this plane. By saying good bye and finding an acceptance to your loved one’s passing, you remove a tether that holds them to this plane. With that one less weight, it is easier for them to move to the other side. It’s why time and time again I hear people say, I just walked out of the room for a moment and in that moment she was gone!
So folks, that’s my limited knowledge of the afterlife and death. I hope that helps enlighten, and bring comfort. I’m certain it’s going to look much different when I get there, but at least I have a sense what I may find.
Each year hundreds of thousands of people make cemeteries a tourist destination. They visit the Pere-Lachaise Cemetery in Paris to see the grave of Jim Morrison; they stroll through the spooky Highgate Cemetery in London reliving their favorite horror films; in New Orleans people go to the St Louis Number 1 Cemetery to see Marie Laveau’s tomb and trinkets hoping to win her favor; and here in Western New York, people go to Forest Lawn cemetery to take in Frank Llyod Wright architecture and stroll the quiet grounds. Cemeteries bring an incredible peace. But, they carry a stigma and, as such, bring a thrill. That stigma - “Are cemeteries haunted?” The answer (in my opinion, mind you) is a loud and resounding NO. Well…. MOST of the time they’re not.
However, I understand people’s fear of cemeteries. They are where we put our loved ones remains as their “final resting place.” We go there with flowers and to “talk” to our deceased loved ones. Additionally, in horror films the dead are depicted crawling out of the grave and lonely spirits are shown wandering between the gravestones. So there must be Spirit, in cemeteries right? WRONG!
Cemeteries are really quite quiet and peaceful. I realized this when I was about four. My grandfather had taken me and my two older cousins (five and seven) to the cemetery to visit my grandmother. Much to my grandfather’s displeasure, we were goofing around in the back seat of the car. When we wouldn’t quiet down, my grandfather got a brilliant idea. He stopped the car and kicked me out telling me; “If you have so much to say talk to all the spooks in the cemetery, look around, there are plenty that could listen. They don’t have anything better to do anyways.” My cousins’ jaws dropped when he shut the car door on me and DROVE AWAY. Now, I’m sure he didn’t go far. I was probably within eye shot the whole time and although it felt like forever it was probably only for a couple minutes. But can you imagine doing that today? CPS would be called! I get off track… back to my point. As I was standing there alone in the cemetery, a little frightened, I realized something… I was ALL alone. And I wondered, where were all the spirits?
After my grandfather came back for me, I was a little sheepish (and proud) so it was a few weeks before I asked my grandfather my question. His response, “Why would they want to hang out there? Cemeteries are depressing. Will you want to hang out in a cemetery when you’re dead? I know I wouldn’t… I’m going to come and haunt you!”
He made a good point. And, it has been my experience he was right. About all aspects… He sure doesn’t hang out there, he is definitely my Casper.
So at there you have it, that’s why cemeteries aren’t haunted. But as I mentioned earlier, that’s most of the time. Which means there are some occasions when there IS spirit activity. One of those times occurred this week - Memorial Day! Over Memorial Day, whenever passing a cemetery (especially military ones) I hear bugle horns and see seas of soldiers in military attire paying their respects to their comrades.
Why are cemeteries busy over Memorial Day? The same reason cemeteries see an influx of living visitors over the holiday. Spirits go to pay their respects just like we do here. Something that is important to remember, when we die we continue to live and continue to grow. Hence our actions over there are very much like they are here. So it should come as no surprise that cemeteries are busy on Memorial Day. And, since Spirit’s activities mimic those of people here… just as fast as the cemetery got busy, they have quieted down. Until next time…
Dawn Lynn is an EveryDay medium. She lives and breathes via her intuition, which as a fourth generation intuitive from a family of Spiritualists came easily. Her abilities became apparent in early childhood and were cultured by a supportive family. Through her Blogs and Vlogs, she wants to help you become the EveryDay medium too.