This article is an excerpt from the new book, HOW TO COMMUNICATE WITH THE DEAD…and How Cultures Do It Around the World, by YourLifeisaTrip.com executive editor Judith Fein.
Smell is one of the most powerful senses. One whiff of a familiar scent can invoke a form of time travel. When Debbie Wilson opened a present containing her mother’s favorite perfume, she didn't know that its scent would transport her back to her childhood. But it did. Suddenly, she was eight years old again wrapped in her mother's love and comfort.
by Richard Rossner
“There’s a disturbance in the Force.” - Obi-Wan Kenobi
My uncle died today. As soon as I heard the news, I felt the depth of Obi-Wan’s statement. It’s been happening a lot lately. My mother died last June.
The disturbance I feel is that small hole…the emptiness…the gap that a person leaves behind when they finish their life’s journey and head for the next adventure in the Hereafter. It seems like a selfish thing, but I didn’t even have to talk to them; I just liked knowing that my uncle and mom were here. My maneuverings in the world somehow felt safer knowing that we were sharing space, air, the daily happenings…everything. But the death of someone I love sensitizes me to the rip in the fabric of life.
Even though I believe in the concept of “spirit” and that it survives bodily death, it doesn’t make the loss any easier for me.
by Roy Stevenson
The view from the top of the high, soft, sand dunes next to the American Military Cemetery at Colleville, Normandy, is great today. It’s a bright clear blue sky and I can see for miles. French fishing trawlers churn through the choppy, deep blue water, miles out to sea, leaving wide foaming wakes behind them. Gazing down across the long, deserted flat white expanse of Omaha Beach, I can see where the olive uniformed American soldiers debarked their landing craft, to shelter behind steel tetrahedrons, or sprint up the beach on D-Day, June 6, 1944.
Descending the sand dunes, I walk the long 500 meters down the gently sloping beach to the water’s edge. It’s dead low tide. I turn around, looking back up towards the dunes. I’m amazed at how far away they are. They would seem like they were miles away, especially to a young soldier armed to the teeth and heavily weighed down with equipment.
It must have been terrifying trying to sprint up the beach into the teeth of a hailstorm of machine gun, rifle, and mortar fire. Of the soldiers in the first few D-Day landing craft, 90% didn’t even make it up the beach. In my mind’s eye I fleetingly see chaos, patches of red blood-drenched sand, and a flickering image of a young soldier in a soaked green uniform. “I must have seen “Saving Private Ryan” once too many times”, I think self-consciously.
Deep in thought, I trudge back up the steep, uneven sand dunes to the American Military Cemetery and walk along row upon row of perfectly aligned white crosses, on the vast 172-acre, smooth, emerald green-grassed plateau. The 9,387 crosses are a stupefying sight. They radiate outwards in perfectly straight lines no matter what angle they are viewed from.
Peter T. Lucas, 1931-2012
There’s never enough time.
My hero lay in bed for his final journey, the trip we all take to who-knows-where. I sat beside him and took his hand for the last time. His palm was dry from a day of heat and sweat, now cool to the touch. His breaths thrust out in fierce exhalations, little drawn back in return. This is called Cheyne-Stokes breathing. It comes very near the end.
His nurses had promised he could hear us, so I told him everything that mattered—how he saved my life and shaped its meaning, how what he stood for was living in us and would pass on to those coming still, even those just born. I’d make sure of that.
I told him how much I loved him.
I told him what a remarkable journey he’d had. And so it was, for Peter Lucas first met the human road in 1931 in Berlin, Germany, at the dawn of a deep, ugly darkness. His parents were from upper-class European Jewish families—his grandfather was the honcho of General Electric in Germany. His father was a progressive journalist and an enemy of the Nazis, so the little family, Peter, Margot and Kurt, escaped to Holland, then on to Britain.
There the young boy spent years on an English farm during the Blitz, while his grandparents died in a concentration camp. His mom took him to New York in 1947; he smuggled in 50 gold coins. He excelled in high school and college, studied geology, went to work for Royal Dutch Shell. He found a $5 billion oil field, became a corporate executive, ran an arm of Shell with 500 employees in Houston. In the middle of this time he helped save my life.
story + photos by Suzanne Marriott
My husband was lying in the hospital bed, dying. It wasn’t as if I should be surprised—he had been in and out of hospitals many times that year, suffering from complications of multiple sclerosis. Yet, I was. I was in shock.
I had been his caregiver for the last ten years, and now, at the time of his death on January 1, 2006, I couldn’t stop. I still had to take care of him. Less than a minute after he drew his last breath, I began reading a Tibetan Phowa, or prayer, to Amatabha Buddha to guide Michael’s transition. It was a long and beautiful poem that guided him as he experienced the stages of death and the many levels of transition. Amitabha is a Sanskrit word that literally means boundless light and boundless life. He is the Buddha in the Land of Ultimate Bliss (Pure Land), in which all beings enjoy unbounded happiness. He can provide a “short cut” to enlightenment. By reading this phowa, I felt still connected to Michael, still able to care for him.
Nearly six years after my husband’s death, I hardly expected to meet Amatabha Buddha again in Sedona, Arizona, and this was not the only surprising thing that happened there.
by Gwen Davis
Mimi was a Bichon Frise, a little puffy white dog of inspiring intelligence and charm. The placing of her ashes in a young coconut, and sending her to sea off Bali, where I have come to live since her shocking departure,-- it is the one place we had not traveled together since dogs were not allowed,-- had to be postponed until the day of the full moon, which is now, because when you do ceremony in Bali it has to be at an auspicious time, or the souls do not rejoice as they should. At least, I think that’s the reason. There’s so much mystery and superstition around Bali that one cannot be quite sure. You just have to leave your heart open and see what happens. At any rate, I do.
So Mimi, whose last great earthly journey was to Bali in my suitcase, in a little flower-printed metal box from Hartsdale pet cemetery where she was cremated, got taken to the beach at Canggu, because that is where you are allowed to do your ceremonies. Yoni, my darling driver, came today bearing five little baskets woven from palm, with tiny flowers and petals in them, and we went there, pausing for her to light the incense, and scatter a few of the petals.