Friday, June 19, 2015
My Dad's Passing
Have felt a deepening sadness as the week progressed. Today, it dawned on me: this Sunday is Father’s Day. It will be two months since my father died. Perhaps because there was so much relief in his release from suffering (he had advanced Alzheimer’s,) it has taken awhile for grief to visit. Or perhaps it is just the natural process of the time required to take in that someone we have known and loved our entire lives is no longer on the planet.
I want to share a story of my father’s passing that brings me great comfort.
In the shamanic tradition in which I am trained I have been taught to accompany and assist those who are dying to leave this realm and move on to what comes next. Often I ask family members if there are loved ones who have already passed so I can call on their spirits to assist the person who is dying.
Several times, in the container of sacred ceremony, I attempted to do this for my father, but he did not seem comforted by the possibility of seeing or being guided by those I knew he had loved.
Forty-eight hours before my father died, although I’d seen him the week before, I had the overwhelming desire to undertake the five hours of driving to see him again. It was clear when I arrived that he was in the process of leaving, lying in bed and moving in and out of the crack between the worlds. I stroked his face and spoke to him softly. I sat at his bedside and used what I know to leave my body and journey out with him into that inbetween place we call the dream.
What I saw surprised me: there were two dogs waiting for my father. I laughed out loud- it made perfect sense. My father was a deeply embodied, instinctually-guided man. He trusted animals far more than he trusted human beings. Understandable really – his childhood had been brutally violent. Growing up, his closest companion had been a collie, a dog he called Lassie. The only time I ever saw my father cry uncontrollably was when Lassie was killed by a car on the highway in front of my grandmother’s house.
In the waking dream I focused on the collie, told my father that she would help him across. He nodded and eagerly went with the dog. Excited to see this old trusted friend of my father’s, I didn’t pay much attention to the other dog that followed along
Less than forty-eight hours later, my father passed away. I was comforted to think that his journey may have been less fearful with his spirit companion, Lassie.
And then someone told me that not that long before my father died, the dog he had had for the last 18 years, Paddy, had also died. That was, of course, the second dog in the dream. In the early years of Dad's Alzheimer’s Paddy had been my father’s constant companion as he’d lost the ability to converse with other human beings.
I have very few beliefs about death. I step into the shamanic tradition and work with its tools when someone is dying because it seems to offer comfort and ease the passing. I don’t know what happens after we die- and honestly, I’m okay with not knowing. But I do have a strong sense that whatever happens. . . . . it’s okay, truly not something to fear. And I delight in the sense that my father was accompanied by the spirit of two being he deeply trusted and loved, two beings that had given him much comfort in his life.
So on this Father’s Day I smile to think of my Dad walking with his two canine companions to whatever comes next.
I miss you Dad. I love you.
~Oriah Mountain Dreamer (c) 2015