To my deceased friends,
Its been a long time since we’ve seen each other face to face, in the land of the living. First I want to tell you that though the years and life itself separate us, I have not forgotten you. I think about you often, I remember you with longing, grief and even joy.
When we were young and full of fire we were as close as friends could be. The openness of our hearts, the intensity of our experiences drew us together. Friends, lovers, kin – we celebrated and struggled with the strange passages young people go through in America. The tribes of our youth carve spaces in us in ways nothing else does.
Back then I knew nothing of the greater dangers of the world. Not only the dangers of war, disease, poverty, but also invisible dangers. Depression, dis-spiritedness, overwhelming grief and the toxic weight of emotional and physical abuse hunted many of you in the years following our time together. I suffered from some of these myself and sought healing remedies that thankfully have held me in wellness for many years now.
We knew nothing of other invisible forces that impacted our lives every day. Our little tribe rejected religion back then because it was so disconnected from what we were experiencing. Many of us knew instinctively that religion is often the biggest barrier to an authentic perception of the transcendent qualities of life. We demanded an authentic spirituality born out of our own lives, anything else was a lie.
I heard of your deaths first at seventeen, then in my twenties, thirties and now forties. You threw yourself off of a building. You drank yourself into a coma. You over-dosed on drugs prescribed to you and another of you overdosed on drugs meant for others that you stole. One of you shot yourself through the heart.
The first suicide was the biggest shock, like getting hit in the chest with a giant hammer. It took years for my head to stop buzzing. The last few deaths have been hard in a different way. You both had children. You both were still struggling with the same issues you had when we met as children. I love you both. I struggle with the fabric of your lives now that with middle age I’ve become aware of what holds my own life together: wife, mother, father, son, daughter.
After hearing about each of your deaths I went through a period of angry frustration. I felt so powerless, not just because I could have done something to help you with your suffering, but also because somewhere I felt you might be suffering still. Through my own practices in shamanism I came to know that death was not the end, nor was it always a rosey beginning filled with light. Sometimes the problems we run from in life only intensify in death. This is something I’ve learned and experienced directly since we last saw each other.
There are terrains between the living and the dead that our ancient ancestors likely charted well. Most cultures at one time or another knew how to shepherd the dead from this world into the next. It was the job of the Psychopomp to open a doorway and call in assistance. This Shaman might have special remedies for ones such as you, ones who died in the deep wells of suffering.
I’ve trained with people like Betsy Bergstrom who see the dead and can conjure a way to make their presence and their suffering tangible to the living. I’ve witnessed the dead haunting the living, attached to us like hungry orphaned tumors searching for a source of food or a pathway to their rightful place. Betsy taught me how to hold the confused space that often exists between the living and dead and balance it on a razors edge. From a place of absolute compassion all beings are offered their freedom – regardless of past suffering or trespasses. Lies can be shorn away, the true self can be liberated.
I’ve spent countless hours exploring the land of the dead, learning to travel there safely, meeting some of the beings that call that place home. I am never at ease there but I can say honestly that there are parts of that landscape I call familiar. My studies and my own practices have shown me that a treasure trove of remedies await those who are interested in helping the living and the dead move on.
We need those remedies now. We have been without the authentic, compassionate guidance of the Psychopomp for many centuries. We need to return to this work – honoring the sacred trust the living have with the dead. We all have a lot to catch up on.
I’m telling you this now because I want you to know something – I’m coming for you. If you are suffering, struggling with the aftermath of a painful and disorienting death, I’m going to help you. Many of you have moved on with no problems, I celebrate this. I know its also true some of you are lost in places most of us cannot even imagine. I will be seeking you out in those places to see if you are ready to leave them – find a better place to be. I now know how to travel to you, I’ve been preparing for this work. I’ve made allegiances with spirits that have limitless compassion to sustain and guide me. You weigh heavily in my heart. You are not forgotten by the living.
May peace be with you until we meet again. May that time be soon.