When does the soul take wing leaving this life, and how long does it take to travel to the next realm? These are questions that have preoccupied me since Laura’s passing. In movies death is usually portrayed as happening in a finger snap. Even the gravely ill succumb in an instant; the head droops, the eyes flicker shut, the mouth falls open and the breath is cut. Watching this, you would think the soul must be jet propelled, vanishing into the next realm with the final heart beat. But Laura’s death wasn’t like that. It was a slow evolving process. Did it start on the day she went unconscious, or even 2 days earlier when she started to reach out to touch spirits we couldn’t see? And where was the finishing point? Two hours before she died I saw streams of energy – her soul? – emanating from the crown of her head. And then for five hours after she had officially died I saw eddies of energy traverse her body as she settled into a peaceful beatific pose. But did it go on longer?
The Western way of death is so abrupt and so clinical. Although MSK kindly let me stay for 5 hours after Laura died, I so wish I could have stayed longer and tended to her. Once the relatives leave, the body is whisked away in a plastic bag and taken to the hospital basement like so much dirty laundry. I much prefer how other cultures like the Hindus care for their deceased. The body is taken home, surrounded with flowers, anointed with sandalwood, relatives bathe the body and children hold lighted sticks and sing hymns. A friend of mine got permission to take her mother’s body home. She lovingly bathed her and wrapped her in a beautiful piece of cloth. Then friends came to pay their respects. One built her a wood coffin, a simple labor of love.
Laura was beautiful in death and I feel sure that the Buddhists have it right that the deceased can still hear us (they say for 49 days, before the spirit moves on). Tibetan buddhists keep the body in the house and whisper spiritual instructions to it. Laura was cremated just two days after she died (at the request of a relative). I wonder did it cut or speed the transition of her soul? It certainly felt like her energy suddenly vanished from this earth. Before then I had repeatedly smelled the odd perfume of her skin in our apartment and at her dear friend Reg’s apartment. Our computers spontaneously played songs (particularly Luther Vandross’s If this World Were Mine which popped up again unexpectedly the morning of Laura’s memorial). And I saw firefly-like lights everywhere, which felt like Laura and other souls flickering nearby. I still see them from time to time, but nothing like the strong energetic presence of those first two days.
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Those first 2 days – the energy is strong. I felt my dear husband’s love wrapping me, swaddling me, cocooning me as if in a spiritual blanket. I’d never felt such incredible love in our earthly life together.
He was cremated as well. I did not know of the 49 days or even 40 days and wondered if his Soul had left this earth as soon as he died. I thought so at the time for where else would it be?
However, a strange thing happened. I adamantly did not want to know when the cremation would be. Did not want to visualize my sweetie going through flames. But, by a twist of fate, someone told me. I was so upset as I did NOT want that picture in my mind.
Anyway – the morning of his cremation, I took a mug of coffee outside and sat under our oak tree, sipping for both of us. I prayed, I talked to my hubby telling him I would always be there for him. I looked up into the clouds to see if he was somehow flying away. I reassured him of my love and felt as if we were holding hands; I had a feeling that he wanted me “with him” for this horrific process.
After a while, I got up and went into the house. The doorbell rang startling me. I opened and saw 2 Jehovah’s Witnesses standing there and nearly shut the door again. I just could not face anybody. But – one of the men stepped forward and introduced himself. “Hi, my name is David.” I lost it. Cried and screamed and sobbed right there in front of those 2 innocent men.
My husband’s name was David.
It will be 4 years this July. And I still receive signs from him. That first year those signs were very strong (smells, lights flickering, music playing, butterflies, birds and other animals that were special to us, etc. etc.) Now, they are less, but all I have to do is ask or reach out to him for comfort and the sun will peek out from behind a cloud, a strong smell that can only be David reaches me, a cardinal or rabbit will appear at just the right time.
I hope this helps you – your Laura will always be there for you – just on the Other Side.
Wendy that is so beautiful. Bless you for taking the time to write and so evocatively. I know Laura is still around in exactly the way you said – lights flickering, smells, music playing, birds and even sometimes objects in the house vibrating as if to get my attention or words that suddenly pop into my head when I am searching for the answer to a question. Most of all, I like the sensation of arms around me or a head on my shoulder. I wonder would you choose cremation over burial for a loved one or yourself going forward? It is hard to think of either. Laura chose cremation, but somehow burial seems more natural to me.
I’m so glad you are open to these signs from Laura. Many people aren’t and it must be so difficult for them. But we know those signs are everywhere – I’ve only touched on the tip of the iceberg here.
For myself, since I’m so drawn to the ocean, I would like to be thrown overboard and let nature take its course. However, I know that’s not practical and my children certainly wouldn’t go to those lengths to dispose of my body (what horrible terminology we use!).
I do feel as you that burial is more natural, but as I am claustrophobic, I shy away from even thinking about it.
So, I’ve left it up to my daughter to decide once the time comes, since either way is not appealing (what is appealing about the whole death process?).
I do think if someone has a strong feeling about either burial or cremation then that must be right for that person. Strangely enough, my brother (who gardens avidly and is drawn to Buddhist teachings) told me that he would like to be put on a mountain top and (like me in the ocean) let nature take its course. I nearly fell off my chair. That our beliefs would be so similar. Obviously, this is a topic no one discusses on a regular basis. And of course, his way will not be carried out either.
Forgive me if my words sound insensitive. You are in the very early stages of grief and I get it. I’ve been there. And yet for me, as painful as it was to discuss , I was drawn to reading about death rituals after my hubby passed away. I yearned to understand this whole process, to see what others do in the rest of the world and I needed to know what was happening to him. Thank goodness for Google.
You can email me privately any time you want to share your feelings or just vent. wendywillow at videotron.ca