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Hello! Today's The George Collective message will be a little different in that it's coming in the form of a Q&A. I try as much as possible to keep my own voice out of The Georges messages because this isn't about me except in the fact that I am amplifying and translating their vibration. So, I feel when I put myself in one of their messages, it's like a microphone started inserting its own commentary during a TED Talk.
But in this case, The Georges have suggested I ask them these questions in writing so others can see their answers.
Lately, there has been a lot going on in my life, much of it involving death. In less than a week's time, two people in my life died, and just a few weeks later, someone I care about attempted suicide. And then there's all of the death around the world that seems so senseless...the spike of COVID deaths in India to more than 4,000 per day, millions of excess mortalities year over year between 2019 and 2020 (and beyond), hundreds of people dying on the Gaza strip, as well as people dying from hunger, senseless acts of violence, oppression, depression, and disease.
Naturally, I have some questions. A few weeks ago, shortly after my brother-in-law and my uncle died, I was awakened at 3:33 AM by a soft, gentle, and peaceful voice that spoke aloud in my bedroom. It said, "There is no death." The voice was warm. It was loving. It was comforting. It was different from the voice I hear in my head when I channel The Georges; that voice sounds a lot like me, only smarter and wiser.
In that moment, I was overcome with peace. I put my hands on my chest and felt my heart beneath my palms, beating not just with my love, but with the love of those who no longer live in their bodies. I immediately had a knowing that their energy, their love, and their spirit rises on my every breath and expands with my every heartbeat.
That was a few weeks ago, and I have felt peace knowing that what I perceived as losses only felt like a loss because I had forgotten that bodies die, but love never does. I still grieve the loss of physical presence in my life because you can know with every fiber of your being that someone is with you always but still miss the feelings of their arms wrapped around you.
Observing what seems like so many senseless deaths and so many living people in such pain and fear, I still can't help but have questions. And so I have been asking them in the silence of my heart. I've asked them in my meditations and in my dreams. I've asked them as I drift off to sleep, as I wake in the morning, and as I go about my day. Because while I am--as you are--deeply connected to Source, I don't always remember that when I get lost in the drama of being human. And so I continue to ask questions because I long to understand.
The Georges have answered me and in those answers, I have found peace. However, many (perhaps most) people find death an uncomfortable topic. So until now, I've kept those questions and answers to myself. The Georges, however, tell me that as questions about death are the main and most pressing questions of all who are living, not just me, I should share our conversation with you in real time. This, then, is a conversation with The George Collective about death unfolding before your eyes.
BEGIN CHANNELED Q&A
Greetings! We are overjoyed at the opportunity to be here with you today. As always, we wish to remind you of our deep and abiding love for each of you. We unconditionally love each soul in a body as each of you is Us and We are each of you. While it is your experience that you are separated and distinct not just from each other, but from All That Is, we wish to remind you that such experience is merely illusion. It is an experience you have offered as a gift to the All That Is so that All That Is, Was, and Ever Will be can know Itself better through embodied experience in Duality. Each of you that perceives yourself as a soul in a body has entered this state willingly with the agreement that, for a while, you will enter into the adventure of forgetting Who You Are, which is All That Is.
We revel in your embodied adventure, admire your intrepid spirit, and rejoice as you begin to re-member yourself outside of the This and That. And, when you ultimately return Home, that is re-member with the All That Is, the entire universe shines with Joy at a piece of the All That Is returning Home. We know we have reminded you of this before, but it fits within our greater discussion of death, of which we understand you have many questions. Thus, we have invited Karen to ask us her questions in this way so we we can answer them for you.
I knew this was coming. But now I feel kind of put on the spot, as if I can't come up with any of the questions I've asked you so many times in the past few weeks. So I guess I'll just start with perhaps the most basic one; it's the question that set me on my path to You as I sought answers. What happens when we die?
It's true. This is the question Source receives more than any. It is a question you are "born" with, and it remains in the back of your minds throughout your life; it is never far from your thoughts. For a person in a body, death is the Great Unknown. And because it is unknown, it drives your fears, which often drive your choices.
What happens when you die? Quite simply, in that moment, should you choose to do so, you re-member. That is, you shed any of the filters of the small I, which is ego identification, and you re-member who you are. And the moment you do, you are overcome with the joy of re-membrance as you return to a Love and a Light greater than you can conceive while you exist in a human body.
Death isn't the end. It is merely a re-membering and a return. And in that moment of transition when you move from ego-identified and embodied to your true identity of All That Is, you are bursting with the joy at the Grace of a loved one returning Home.
Oh my gosh! I remember those words. I wrote them in a poem when I watched someone welcome death (I'll post the poem at the end of this channeling so you don't have to read it if you don't want to).
You have mentioned that you have been channeling us for years. Often your words are our words. We have been in partnership for many lifetimes.
Okay. Sorry about that. I got excited at the familiarity of the phrase. As you were answering and before the microphone interrupted the TED Talk, I was wondering if we all return Home and re-member when we die, then what of ghosts and earthbound spirits? What of spirits who wander in lower vibratory realms? If their bodies have died, then why aren't they immediately whooshed Home? Why do their spirits wander?
In your question you have already supplied part of the answer when you said "if their bodies have died." Their bodies have ceased to function, but the individual they identified with--which is the small I or the ego--has not yet died. For whatever reason, that spirit has remained ego-identified. They are unwilling to let go of the identity, and thus while they lack a body, they still remain in the Realm of This and That in order to have more experiences.
When the body has died and the ego and identity remain with the spirit., it is merely another experience. For that segment of Source Energy, being a "ghost" serves some kind of a purpose or is part of what that spirit needs to do in order to re-member. However, even "ghosts" and "wandering spirits," when they have eked all of the experiences they desire out of being a "ghost," will return Home. So being a "ghost" is merely another available experience that has value for some pieces of the All That Is. When they are ready, their return Home will be just as joyful and filled with Grace as any other piece of the All That Is.
Additionally, we would like you to know that it is also possible to "die" while still in a body. However, instead of calling this "death" and mourning it, you call it "Awakening", "Mastery," or "Enlightenment" and celebrate it! For spiritual seekers (and ultimately for all humans), this is what you aim for! Death is simply detachment from ego-identification and re-membering with Source energy, regardless of whether you leave your body to do it or decide to remain in a body for a while to see what that feels like.
Your question about spirits in lower vibratory realms has a similar answer. Some pieces of Source need to spend time experiencing themselves as "evil" or "darkness" or "chaos" so that they can then make the choice to no longer be those things and thus, re-member with Source as well. These parts of Source energy are different from embodied humans, however, in that it's highly unlikely they have been in human bodies. Rather, they've chosen to enter duality in other forms, and their experience is no less valuable than the process of becoming human; it's just a different path.
These entities are no more inherently evil than any energy in the All That Is, they have simply chosen a different experience of Duality. Their essence is Love, just as yours is. They are made of the same stardust as you. They simply adopt a lower vibrational form.
These entities co-exist within the same universe of Duality that humans do, and occasionally there is interaction between the two. However, because for the most part they have never been humans, and humans have never been these entities, there is a fundamental lack of understanding which generates fear. The lower vibrational energy from these entities feels deeply uncomfortable to humans because the energetic mismatch is so profound. The response is often fear.
It is important to understand, however, that while these entities feel heavy, dense, dark, and frightening to you, they are also a part of Source energy and as such, are no less loved and welcomed Home when they re-member than any human is.
However, it's also important to understand that some humans are attracted to these energies, and thus they invite them into their embodied lives. And when they do, their vibration begins to align with the density of these other pieces of Source energy, which can lead to what other embodied humans might perceive as acts of evil or even possession.
We understand that from your perspective, this feels frightening. However, we also urge you to understand that you have a choice as to whether you meld your energy with these entities and or even allow them into your life.
If you do briefly encounter someone or something with this dense energy, we suggest you recognize it as a piece of Source energy, send it loving light, and move on your way without giving it anymore attention, for the more attention you give it, the more likely you are to keep attracting it. Therefore, recognize it exists, send it Light, and step away with Love. That is all the engagement you need, and just that small amount of Light may be the very thing this entity needs to begin to re-member and start on its journey Home.
I'm not gonna lie - I wasn't expecting your answer to go there because I've always been a "demon denier." I've never wanted to place my attention on those entities because I don't want to step into that vibration, even for a moment. However, as you were discussing these lower vibrational energies, I couldn't help but think about infrasound, and how that vibrational energy can cause a host of fear-based icky reactions in humans. Is interacting with these entities like that?
It is an apt comparison. Vibrational mismatch can feel uncomfortable when you encounter a being of lower vibration or euphoric when you are the lower vibration being encountering one of higher vibration. Thus, your vibration generates a sense of euphoria that may attract these entities, which is why it's up to you to minimize the attention you give them.
Send Love. Send Light. Step away. Any other engagement could result in the lowering of your vibration, which you have worked for so many lifetimes to raise to where it is now. This is probably why you are a "demon denier." You've worked for thousands of lifetimes to reach your current vibration, and you have enough re-membrance of who you are to recognize you don't want to go back to a lower vibration.
It's perfectly acceptable to do so, and many souls do--in fact, you have before. But often it takes many more lifetimes to get back to where you started when you decided to engage, and for many souls who have done that once or twice, they recognize it as a "trap" when they encounter it again. These souls choose not to engage and instead continue on the path forward.
Wow. So many questions from that statement. I don't wander too far afield or make this too much about me, but curiosity compels. Thousands? And some version of me engaged with evil?
Actually more than thousands; Source energy has endless opportunities to re-enter experience, not just in all four Waves of Humanity, but in other realms as well. So yes. You've been doing this for what those of you existing in space time might call "a while."
And yes. Not "some version" of you engaged with evil. You. Because you are Source, and Source encompasses All That Is, Was, and Ever Will Be. So you have, indeed, engaged with evil. But we do understand your question to mean the packet of Source energy that currently presents as Karen and has also entered into other bodies and identified with other egos throughout lifetimes. And the answer is still yes. Every soul packet of energy has the sum total of every experience over lifetimes. You have, in other lives, chosen to identify as evil. That's what this is all about. Experience!
Why are we so frightened of death?
First we want to tell you that all of the mythos surrounding death is mostly incorrect. When humanity doesn't understand something, you create stories about it. These stories are often fear-based because embodied humans fear what lurks in the shadows, and death is the ultimate shadow.
Likewise, many institutions and individuals recognize this fear of the unknown and use it to their advantage. They use it to condition and control you so you will do what they want. Therefore, one of the most effective ways of removing the fear of anything, including death, is to stop believing what others tell you and spend time shining your own light on that which you fear. We guarantee that when you set aside cultural mythology, social conditioning, and controlling narratives coming from others and examine death in the light of Truth and Love, you will come to be, if not unafraid, less afraid of dying.
What do we need to understand when a loved one dies?
We suggest you try to understand the Love and joy that comes with a decision to re-member. Because that is what death is; it is detachment from the small I so you can return to where you came from, which is the All That Is, Was, and Ever Will Be. Death is a return to Love, and it is a choice that is lovingly made so that a soul can rejoin with Source, re-member that their true nature is Love, and begin planning for another set of experiences.
Therefore, the soul that dies experiences no pain or discomfort; they experience only joy, compassion, peace, and Love. As soon as they return Home, they are able to view the life they just lived as the adventure it was.
We can offer a comparison. Some embodied humans like horror movies. Others like roller coasters. They consider these things "fun" and "entertaining" even though part of what is fun about them is surviving the fear the experience invoked and then, when it's over, the euphoria at being safe. What an adventure! And thus, pieces of Source energy that embody as humans set out on an adventure. And for as long as they remain identified with the small I, the adventure continues until they decide it is time to re-member.
You just used the word "decide." Do we decide to die?
You do, but you may not realize you have made that decision. In your current embodiment, we remind you of when your grandmother was very ill and ready to return to Source. She made the decision to stop eating or drinking knowing it meant she would not remain in her body for much longer. And, when she left her body, she joyfully re-membered with Source. That is an example of someone consciously choosing to re-member.
In other cases, it may not be so clear cut. They may, on a soul level, realize they have eked out all of the experience they can from this ego and body, and thus their soul decides it is time to re-member and return Home.
Some also come with a plan to aid another's experience, and they therefore come to die "early" or "tragically" in order to help another beloved soul have the experience of profound grief. Souls have as many reasons for choosing to die as there are souls, and each one's journey is individual. But all are complicit in their own deaths in that they have, either consciously or at a soul level, determined that they no longer need to identify with the small I they currently inhabit.
Are you suggesting that dying young or tragically is no more horrendous than dying of old age and natural causes?
It depends on who you ask. To the re-membered soul, there is no catastrophe, there is only joy and re-membrance with Source. This is true regardless of age, experience, or cause of death. All are joyful events of rebirth into the unending beauty of Source energy.
Think of it this way: you like to read, and throughout your life you've read a lot of fiction. You read long novels and short stories; tragedies, myths, romances, fantasies, thrillers, fairy tales, hilarious romps, joyful poems, and virtually every literary experience you can have under the sun. Some take you a long time to read while others take a few minutes. You connect deeply to some stories, remain detached from others, enjoy many, and are annoyed by a few. But for all, you agree when you pick up a book to immerse yourself in the experience of the story you are reading. You agree to set aside your own "reality" and enter the world of the story. And when it ends, while you may feel sad if it was a tale you were particularly attached to, you put the book down and go on with your "reality." You seldom think a well-crafted story ended prematurely. You celebrate the joy the story brought you and move on with your life.
It may seem trite, but this is a good allegory for life and death. No life ends too soon. No life ends too tragically. Like the books you read, the lives have a beginning, middle, and end, and they progress through space-time on an adventure that leaves you having had, at least in your mind, experiences you wouldn't have had if you hadn't picked up the book.
And thus it is as a soul. You eagerly pick up a book you call a life. You agree to set aside what you know in order to dive in and have the full experience. And when the book is done, regardless of how long it took or what you experienced while you read it, as soon as the story is over you re-member your "real life" which in this case, is yourself as a perfect expression of All That Is, which is Love.
However, to the embodied soul experiencing the death of a loved one, there is often grief over the loss of that person's physical presence. And we recognize that grief is a beautiful but painful part of being identified with the small I. We urge you to allow yourself to feel the grief and process it fully, as this is also part of the experience you came to have.
We also wish to remind you this: that soul is never lost to you. You remain connected every moment of every day with every breath and every heartbeat. Your "lost soul" is not just near you, but within you. There is no separation between you and them. None. And when your story is over this time around and you re-member, whether it involves your own physical death or your Awakening, you will recognize this as truth. All that you thought you had "lost" has been there all along.
And what of suicide?
Regardless of the manner of death, our answer remains the same. Sometimes when you're reading a book, you find the experience so unpleasant that you stop reading it before the story ends. And sometimes, an embodied human experiences so much pain and disconnection in their experience of the small I, that they choose to detach from that ego-identification before their story is over. An embodied soul who is truly done will end their existence as that embodied soul, and there is nothing any other ego-identified being can do to stop them. Nor is it the fault or responsibility of anyone in a body that this soul arrived in such a place of pain as to end its experience.
We know this is hard to understand when you are in the ego experience. It likely feels dispassionate, particularly given your current experience with the attempted suicide of a loved one. We acknowledge your pain and confusion about this, and we wrap all of you in Love, peace, and compassion as you continue to process your feelings.
Your loved one has arrived in a place of great pain with their current ego-identification. And in that pain, your loved one tried to bring their life to an end. However, their continued presence in their body suggests that their soul is not yet ready to leave, so although the ego was ready to go, the soul was not in agreement. When a disconnection such as this occurs between the small I and the soul, it is the choices of the soul that always prevail. There is more in this incarnation for your loved one to experience before they rejoin with Source energy.
This does not mean that the path will be easy or suddenly miraculously better, because the truth is that your loved one remains in great pain. Due to how recently this occurred in linear time, part of everyone's processing including the one who attempted to die includes projecting into the future, which is generating even more pain and more fear as what lies ahead is the great unknown. And this projection into pain and fear blocks the Love, forgiveness, and compassion necessary for healing. As much as you can, we urge you all to remain in Presence, where you can deal with each energy as it arises. Remain in Love. Avoid recrimination or blame, for there is no blame here.
As much as you can, avoid the belief "this shouldn't have happened." This is a harmful belief that keeps everyone trapped in fear and pain, and it is judgmental and magical thinking. You can think it shouldn't have happened all you want, but the truth is that in your current reality, it did. And if it did happen, then there is no wishing or judging it away. So you must move forward.
Do so with Love, kindness, compassion, and understanding. Try to remain in Love and not fear. Call on guidance when you need it. And moment to moment, each person must make the choices that are the best for self; not for another. For you have no way of knowing what is "best" for anyone but yourself. Your well-meaning choices on behalf of another may not be what is best for them; only they and their soul know what that might be. Moment to moment, tune into you and make the highest choice that supports the greatest vision you can have for yourself as it relates to this situation. Trust others to do the same. This is the way forward.
And finally, we wish to remind you that which we said to you one morning as you woke at 3:33 AM and heard our voice in your room. There is no death. There is only Love. We Love you. We support you. We walk beside you. In your pain, we wrap you in the Love of All That Is. In Source, there is only Love, Light, and Oneness.
For all of you who fear death and mourn the loss of loved ones, know that while your small I may perceive loss, your True Self, which is Source energy, remains One with All That Is, Was, or Ever Will Be. You are safe, and you are loved.
END CHANNELED Q&A
From Karen: This is the poem I mentioned in the questions. I wrote it when someone I cared about was dying and doing so eagerly, much to the dismay of many who loved him.
Left behind we watch
As you drift away
Unable to comprehend
How you can smile
At a time like this
Your eyes are on the heavens
Ours are on the horizon
As we look forward and see
Emptiness in the space
You now occupy
Your consciousness expands outward
Into the universe
Our consciousness shifts inward
To probe a wound
Raw with your leaving
We wonder at your peace
In the presence of our pain
Unable to understand
Your smile of compassion
At our turmoil
Lost in our physical selves
We never take the time
To experience the process
And when we do
We wrap ourselves in grief
Instead of bursting with the Joy
At the Grace of a loved One
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Today is the one-year anniversary of my dad's death. My family is understandably feeling sad today because he has been gone from us for an entire year.
During that year, people have generously shared memories of my dad. They tell us what a good man he was. They share stories of his humor, his compassion, his kindness, his caring, his integrity, and his willingness to help. They talk of his curious mind, his intelligence, and his quick wit. They discuss his acts of community service, his athletic feats, and how inspirational they found him.
My dad was that man. He did all of those things and more. But he was also human.
In his eulogy last year at Dad's memorial service, Rev.Gary Shoemaker started by saying this. "John Riseland was no saint, but with everything I'm going to tell you, by the time I'm done, you may think he was."
When someone dies, we tend to focus on all of the good things about that person. We romanticize them in our memories and in how we talk about them to loved ones who are grieving. We even have a saying in our culture, "Don't speak ill of the dead." I'm sure it's a respect thing, but I think we do a disservice to ourselves, to the person who has died, and to society as a whole when we immediately turn those who have passed from this realm into saints. In doing so, we strip them of their humanity.
My dad was a good man. In fact, it's likely he was a great man. He was a wonderful son, father, husband, grandfather, great grandfather, brother, friend, and human being. He is someone I've always tried to emulate. But he was no saint. He was a human being. He made mistakes, but as soon as he realized he had, he apologized, made amends, and tried to do better. He was a decent athlete, but he was also pretty clumsy. He was involved in his church and believed deeply in the power of the church to bring healing to communities, but he frequently questioned his own faith. He was open-minded but often got a little cranky in political arguments. He was compassionate and slow to anger, but trust me, he could get mad. As a teen, I personally experienced his temper each time I made a new dent to his car. (In his defense, there were a lot.) He was very funny, but sometimes his jokes were really, really awful.
My dad was no saint. He made mistakes. He was a human being. But he was also a man of tremendous integrity, kindness, compassion, and depth. He was a loving husband, father, grandfather, great grandfather, brother, son, uncle, and friend. He loved profoundly, and his emotions ran deep. And the beauty of all of that is this: every one of those wonderful stories people have shared with my family about my dad in the past year are true. He was all of those beautiful things in spite of the fact he was also a fallible human being. His goodness far overrode any flaws or mistakes.
And so, going into the second year without his presence in my life, I choose to remember all aspects of my dad. Because in spite of having the fallibility of every other human on earth, he chose to make goodness the overall focus of his life, and I think that's far more relatable and easier to aspire to than sainthood. My dad was no saint, but he lived a beautiful life. He was one of the best men I've ever known, and it helps me to remember that during the times when I, too, am no saint.
My dad had a lot of Clark Griswold in him. In fact, I'm relatively certain his Clark Griswold-like characteristics were so pronounced they were mentioned at his funeral. Every year during the holidays, he and my mom packed the family into our Oldsmobile Vista Cruiser station wagon (complete with moon roof and "wood" side panels) and drove off in search of the perfect Christmas tree. We hunted Christmas trees in rain, fog, snow, Nor'easters, and below freezing temps. We were dedicated with my dad leading the charge, and we drove triumphantly home with our fresh cut tree strapped to the car's ski racks. During the holidays when I was growing up, we always had a live, fresh cut Christmas tree adorning our living room in the little blue house on Broadway. One year to my sister Jenny's displeasure, it was a tree she had planted and nurtured in our yard over the years, but that's another story for another day.
Fresh cut Christmas trees were a holiday tradition I sadly didn't carry on with my family. Given how lifelike artificial trees have become in the past few decades, we've always had one of those instead. I didn't have to vacuum up needles or worry about fires like my mom did, but we never went tromping through the woods or a Christmas tree farm with the kids, never strapped a tree to the top of our car, and our house was never scented with the aroma of evergreen.
As the holidays approached this year, I wasn't certain I was even going to decorate my artificial Christmas tree. I've viewed the holidays with some trepidation this year because it is my first without my dad. Our kids are grown and don't live at home anymore and making the effort of hauling out our tree and schlepping it downstairs, digging out our ornaments, and hanging them seemed pointless and like a lot of work I just didn't feel like doing.
My dad has been gone for 10 months now, and I have coped with my grief in stages. His illness and death were unexpected, sudden, and brutal in their intensity. In many ways, it still doesn't seem real that he is gone. Yet he is.
My first stage of grieving was numbness. I had other people to worry about, work projects to take care of, classes to teach, books to write, and more. In those early months my grief bubbled up occasionally, but I was always able to tamp it down and refocus on my task at hand instead. During that stage I wrote a tribute to him, accepted and thanked people for their condolences, tried to comfort my family, dedicated a book or two to him, and congratulated myself on being okay. I was so numb I didn't realize I wasn't.
In the next stage, I started to process. I allowed my grief and took the time to acknowledge it. As I am given to do, I did much of my processing in writing with tears streaming down my face. During this phase, I also spent a lot of time doing things I enjoyed. I traveled multiple places with Jim and with friends. I went on several boats. I wrote a lot and communicated with my readers via this blog and social media. I taught a multiple classes. Unfortunately, my dog Sofie became ill and died during this time, as well. I thought I handled it pretty well.
In mid-October, I realized I was exhausted. I'd been struggling with an ongoing health issue since May when I accidentally ingested gluten while traveling (I have celiac disease and eating even trace amounts of gluten can send me into a health and inflammatory spiral that lasts for about six months). I felt drained of life force energy. I've always been even-keeled, emotionally and spiritually energetic, optimistic, and generally relaxed and happy no matter what is going on in my life, but I noticed even the smallest things sent me into a flurry of stress. My ability to cope was gone, and I felt spiritually, emotionally, and physically depleted. All I wanted to do was sleep and go somewhere to spend weeks away from all people recharging my batteries. I took some time off from teaching my classes (I will resume in January), stopped writing blogs and working on books or projects, spent almost no time on social media, and spent less time around people. There was a period in late October and early November after we returned from a trip to Nevada, Arizona, and Utah where I didn't leave the house for about ten days because I was so ill and depleted, and I felt I just couldn't "do people." I emerged briefly to attend the Port Gamble Ghost Conference the week before Thanksgiving because I'd committed to do so months ago, but then I returned home and into my self-imposed exile.
It was during this period I started to dread the holidays because there was a big, dad-shaped hole right in the middle of them. Jim's car broke down and he had to work over Thanksgiving, so I was unable to travel to be with my family. I sat home with the dogs all day on Thanksgiving and pretended it was just any other day. In fact, it's only been in the past week when I've started to peek out of my hole, get out into the world, and feel as if I am coming to life again. It turns out that while the exile felt awful while I was going through it, it was exactly what I needed to recharge my batteries.
I remained unsure what I was going to do about Christmas. I still had no intention of putting up a Christmas tree or decorating. Then, I was chatting with my friend Teresa last night about old family Christmas traditions and we started talking about fresh Christmas trees and how much we loved then. In my tentative journeys back into the world, I noticed a few places had living Christmas trees, and I had been feeling a pull towards them. When I was talking to Teresa, it struck me exactly what I wanted to do for the holidays. I decided to buy a small living Christmas tree in honor of my father. If the ground isn't frozen, I will plant it on the first anniversary of his death (2/1). If it is frozen, I'll plant it as soon as I can. In this way, I feel like my dad is still a part of my holidays.
Today I went to Home Depot and was gratified to discover they had living Christmas trees. I chose a small spruce and got some tiny lights and ornaments and brought it home to decorate.
The photo to the left is my living Christmas tree tribute to my dad. The star on the top is a stained glass ornament my dad made for me. I had forgotten I had it, but when I found it I was delighted because it was perfect. (Those are my citrus trees in the background. They are wintering indoors in a south facing window where they can stay warm and get lots of sunlight).
I've written a lot about grief in 2018, and I've shared much of it with my readers. My grief has manifested in many ways throughout the year. At times I've ignored it and soldiered on and at times I've acknowledged and allowed it. I've found the times of allowing have felt more healing to me than the times of ignoring. Go figure.
I know many people are facing a holiday season without a loved one. It's an experience most of us will share at some point because death is the great equalizer. It inhabits all of our lives with the memory of those who were once with us in body but no longer are. Your grief may feel raw and fresh, or it may have mellowed with time, but times of family gatherings and tradition often serve to highlight those who are no longer with you.
However, if you can find a way to honor them in your holiday rituals, it may help. Whether it's getting a live Christmas tree and later planting it in your yard in their honor, buying ornaments that capture their essence and hanging them on your holiday tree, rejuvenating an old family holiday tradition, remembering them in prayer or meditation, donating to their favorite charity in their name, lighting candle in their honor, or something else that reminds you of them, it can help you heal. Create a new tradition for you and your family that honors those who have left you. Do something that captures their spirit and makes you smile. And as you do, open your heart and listen. You just may hear them whispering to you and realize that while they are physically no longer there, they have never left you.
My dad died on February 1 of this year. I don’t say that to garner sympathy but merely as a statement of truth. I say that because my dad no longer walks this earth, and that is my new reality.
He is not the first person I love who has died, but he is certainly the closest. His illness seemed sudden, although it had likely been around for months. In late October, he got a cold. He still had it at Thanksgiving, although his doctor assured him it was just a virus that was lingering. After the holidays when the cold was still there, his doctor grew concerned and sent him to a specialist. On January 10, he was diagnosed with late stage lung cancer and was in a severe amount of pain. No treatment would prolong his life. He entered hospice the last week in January and died after a few days. My mother, sister, nephew, husband, and I were all by his side as he breathed his last breath.
Over the past few decades, I’ve developed into a pretty chill person. Especially in the past five or so years, I’ve been an anxiety-free, happy-go-lucky, roll-with-the-punches kind of gal unless something extreme has happened. Perhaps not surprisingly, that is also the period in my life where I’ve hit my stride as an intuitive energy healer and psychic medium. Living what I believe is my life’s true purpose has smoothed my rough edges and given me a broader perspective about life and death. It’s allowed me to move into my authentic self. I’ve communicated with hundreds of spirits of people who have passed, including some I love. I’ve offered comfort to people who are mourning the loss of loved ones. So I guess somewhere in the back of my mind, I believed that when one of my immediate family members died, I would handle it with a similar level of aplomb, understanding, and even-temperedness.
That didn’t happen.
On the day my father was diagnosed, I stopped eating. I couldn’t. I tried. I’d take a bite of food and nothing would go down. I barely slept. I threw myself into work. And in my darkest moments, I was convinced I didn’t remember how to swallow. I’d try to swallow and panic would set in until I was able to relax myself enough to do it. Then, as soon as I did, it would start all over again. I was terrified I was going to choke on my own saliva. I knew intellectually these were all manifestations of anxiety arising from the stress of my dad’s illness and worry about my mom, but even knowing and understanding that didn’t matter.
By about January 15, doctors told us my dad probably had six months left. It was plenty of time, I thought, that we could get together and say everything we had to say. My sisters and I planned a weekend with my parents at the beginning of February where the five of us could spend time together as a family. In the meantime, I threw myself into my work, taught my classes, and accepted any project that came my way to keep my mind busy. During that two weeks, I wrote two books if that tells you anything about how frantically I worked. You have lots of time to do stuff when you stop sleeping and eating.
Early in the week before we were supposed to spend the weekend with my parents, my mom called and said dad was going into hospice to get his pain under control. It sounded like he would be put on some medication and return home, just as he had the previous week when he was hospitalized for the same reason. Still, in my heart I knew my dad would enter hospice, and he wouldn’t return home. I hoped I was wrong, but I didn’t think I was.
The next day, mom called and told us if we wanted to see Dad, we needed to come now. Unfortunately, my younger sister had a flight from Hawaii where she lives in a few days and was unable to change it. My older sister, my husband, and I dropped everything and headed to my hometown where we sat with my mom and dad in hospice.
My father was minimally lucid when I arrived. He had short periods of wakefulness, but he was heavily drugged and would quickly drift off to sleep. It was difficult to understand what he said when he was speaking. In one particularly lucid moment, he opened his eyes, looked at me, said, “Hi Kar,” and then asked me, “Am I dying?” I told him yes because what else was I going to do?
It quickly became apparent that even as heavily medicated as he was, my father was still in significant pain, so meds were raised to try and control it. He slipped away then; he was out of pain and still with us but not really with us.
On Thursday evening while my younger sister was still on an airplane, Dad took a turn. Something changed. His breathing was different – more erratic. We knew it would be soon, and all of us stood by his side and talked to him. We told him it was okay to go, that mom would be okay, and that we would all be okay. We told him we loved him. Well, at first just my mom and my sister did because I was overcome. I couldn’t speak the words in my heart, but then as I got my emotions under control, I was able to tell him the same thing.
After a short period that seemed like forever, something in the room changed. I felt something – someone there. I knew his loved ones had come for him. I turned to Jim, signaled this would be Dad’s last breath, and then watched as he took it. I felt him go.
My dad died. I didn’t want to let him go, but I knew we had to. Life is not the same without him, and my world is forever changed.
We lingered for an hour in hospice as they took care of Dad’s body and friends came to offer love and support. When they took him to the funeral home, Jim and I staggered back to our hotel in a daze. All the way, I heard my dad chattering at me, but I assumed it was just wishful thinking. He was telling me what he was experiencing, and I was happy to listen, but for once I didn’t believe I was actually receiving psychic communication. I just thought I was doing what I needed to do to comfort myself.
Back at the hotel, Jim left to get something out of our car while my dad’s voice still chattered in my head. I said, “I wish it was really you, but I know it’s just my mind.” And then someone physically yanked my hair hard, and my dad’s voice said loudly, “Hey! Listen to me. I’m here.”
And so I listened. What he said was between us. And in the back of my mind, I still didn’t believe I was really hearing it.
The next several weeks were numb. I went to the funeral. I took on more and more work. I taught my classes. When I tried to speak of my dad, I broke down in sobs. And when I was alone, my dad would come to me and talk. I didn’t know if he was really there; I couldn’t trust my abilities because I knew what I wanted to believe would supersede what was actually happening. I felt him visit regularly. And although I didn’t believe he was there, on the off chance he was, I talked to him. Doing so gave me comfort.
I told him that to get through to my mom and sisters, the best way was to communicate in their dreams. I told him I missed him, I loved him, and I wished I could have had more lucid time with him before he died. I had full conversations every time I felt his presence even though I was sure he wasn’t really there, but I just wanted him to be.
A few months later, I was at the Oregon Ghost Conference, where I teach and speak every year. I was surrounded by psychics, and I told my dad on one of his visits, “If you’re really here and you’ve really been coming to me, please communicate with one of my psychic medium friends and have them speak to me privately, giving me some kind of information so I will know I truly have been communicating with you.”
My friends Seth Michael and AuroA were giving a gallery reading that night at the conference. So far, nobody had said anything to me from my dad, so I thought that probably confirmed what I knew, which was my conversations with and visits from him were all in my mind. After all, my dad when he was alive was skeptical about psychics, and my abilities were a subject we just didn’t discuss much, if at all. So I had zero expectations at the gallery reading; I was there to support my friends.
I stood in the back of the room watching people getting messages from loved ones when I heard my dad’s voice say to me, “Watch this,” as Seth and AurorA were transitioning from giving messages to one person to another.
Then Seth started making a horrible coughing noise – one I’d heard before. “This man is making me feel so much pain and like I can’t breathe and he sounds like this,” Seth said, making the strangled noise again. It was the exact noise my dad made as he was in hospice dying.
“He says, ‘I gave up the ghost,’ and laughs,” Seth said. “He says, ‘I willed himself to die.’”
Seth was communicating with my father, who thought my ghost stuff was amusing and often made the joke of “giving up the ghost.”
And so, in front of a ton of people, my dad who I always thought was slightly embarrassed by the whole psychic and ghost thing communicated with me. The content of the message didn’t matter as much as the fact he was there. He was also letting me know by communicating through Seth that all the communication I believed to be my imagination was, indeed, real. It brought me comfort, and it also released something. It was the start of my true grief process.
I always believed that as a psychic medium I would handle the death of loved ones well, as my belief and understanding is people never really leave us and love never really dies, that they are there looking over us and loving us in spirit form. I’ve shared this information with many people, and I’ve felt it viscerally as I do.
But when my dad died, I forgot all of that. Or for a while, I stopped believing it. I became trapped in numbness where I felt safe. There’s not a word deep enough to describe the raw depths of my pain at my dad’s death, and it wasn’t a feeling I was willing to allow myself to experience or process. The part of me who had comforted so many people by telling them their loved ones were still there was deeply ashamed that when death became that closely personal, I somehow lacked the power of my convictions. I was angry at myself for grieving so deeply and unwilling to allow my grief because of my belief that consciousness survives death and my dad wasn’t really lost. I believed I was supposed to grieve a certain way, or that my grief should somehow be less because I could communicate beyond the veil. My pain grew sluggish and sticky. I was mired in it because I refused to allow myself to move through it since I didn’t believe given what I knew about the human soul, I should be grieving at all.
Instead, I processed in bits and pieces. I’ve had times where I’ve broken down, times where I’ve been numb, and times where for just a moment, I have a glimmer of understanding that what I believe about life after death is true. But those moments of knowing were ephemeral, and they slipped away before I could grasp them with desperate hands.
In mid-August, we gathered to scatter my dad’s ashes. We chartered a boat filled with family and friends and traveled to the San Juan Islands. On the way, we saw porpoises, and when we arrived at the spot, there was an unexpected pod of migrating orcas.
All of my life, I’ve dreamed of dolphins, porpoises, orcas, and whales. They come to me in dreams during difficult periods, and I always wake from the dreams knowing everything will be all right, and all is as it should be. So it was no mistake they were there that day when we scattered my dad’s ashes. They were there for him and from him, and they were there for all of us.
As my older sister and nephew poured his ashes into the water where the orcas swam, the ashes made a beautiful pattern in the sea. And I did something I was unable to do at his funeral. I allowed myself to feel the depths of my grief and I cried. I told my dad good-bye, and I let him go. And underneath, I felt something else, as well. I felt gratitude I’d had my dad for 52 years and for the father he’d been, and I knew I never truly would have to let him go because he was a part of me.
There is no right or wrong way to grieve, nor is there a time frame or normal behavior. Regardless of what you believe or what you know, when someone you love dies, it is intensely personal. It doesn’t matter if you can communicate with spirits, if you believe in life after death, or if you believe your loved ones remain with you even though they are no longer physically embodied. For quite a while, I was unwilling to allow the grief to touch me because I didn’t believe I had a right to it given what I knew to be true about the nature of the universe. But as I tried to go about life as usual, my dad kept creeping in, and so did deep sadness at his passing. Eventually, I came to a place where I could either choose to suppress it and live my life in a state of numbness, or I could lean in and allow myself to experience it fully so I could move on. I wish I would say it was a conscious decision I chose the latter, but it wasn’t. The dam burst and I was unable to continue with the numbness because it dishonored all that my father was to me. It also dishonored the authenticity of my own feelings.
And so I grieve. I miss my dad. I know he is safe. I know he is well, and I know he is with us, but he is not physically here. But even in his death, my dad is still teaching me things. When he was alive, he taught me to always have an open mind. By giving me Raymond Moody’s Life After Life when I was a teenager, he set me on the path to my life’s true purpose. By his own curious exploration of the universe, he set the example that made me feel comfortable pursuing my own curiosity, and even though we ultimately arrived at different conclusions about the way things worked. Without his example, I would never have come to be where I am now.
In his death, my dad remains my teacher. He shows me it’s never too late to learn; you can even learn things after you die. He shows me I can’t avoid grief and sadness, and my feelings are never wrong and should never be denied. And he shows me that what I believe is, in some form true – or at least true for me. When our loved ones die, their bodies are no longer there. But their souls – those live on. They move on to new adventures and possibly even new bodies, but their love for us leaves an indelible imprint on our lives, hearts, and souls that can and will never be erased.
Image by Thomas Wolter from Pixabay
I have had many roles in my life: mother, wife, sister, friend, writer, teacher, musician, but my role as John Riseland's daughter has always been one of my favorites.
Yesterday I gathered with people who I have known all my life, and we said good-bye to my dad. His service was packed - standing room only - a fitting and appropriate send-off for a humble and kind man who touched more lives than he ever would have known.
My dad was a giant of a man; he was 6'4" and over 200 pounds with size 14 feet. People with that stature can be scary to some, but I don't think my dad ever was. Sure when he coached high school basketball he could bark at a ref, or if someone threatened his family in any way or questioned his integrity, he got mad like anyone else. But in his day to day life, in his general demeanor, he was a gentle and kind soul. He always had a smile and a laugh. He loved telling jokes, and he never met bad dad pun he didn't love.
Here's an example of his bad dad jokes: when we were kids, every time we ate Chinese food and it came time for fortune cookies, he would open his, adopt a shocked look, and pretend to read from the fortune in a panicked sounding voice, "Help! I'm being held prisoner in a Chinese fortune cookie factory." After the first dozen or so times, we groaned when he said it, but he never stopped believing it was the height of hilarity.
My dad was always uniquely himself. I never saw him be anything but exactly who he was. He was a man without pretension, and if he thought it, he probably said it. He loved to tease and joke. He thought deeply about everything in life, and he loved to engage in thoughtful, philosophical discussions.
In many ways, he was a paradox. He was a deeply spiritual man with a vastly open mind. He was a talented athlete who could also be clumsy and accident prone. This is a man who played college basketball with grace and yet still somehow managed to run over his foot with a lawn mower or drop a fully cooked Thanksgiving turkey in the garage behind the car. Because of these things, we affectionately call him Clark Griswold and joked that his klutz DNA runs generations deep. We're not wrong.
My mom and dad raised three very different daughters - all independent women with vastly different careers and belief systems, and he's always respected each of us and our right to believe what we do and find our own understandings for the way the universe works. He was a good parent - probably even an excellent one. In fact, he and my mom used to teach parenting classes in their church to young couples. Yet with all his knowledge of parenthood, he seldom tried to tell my sisters and me how to raise our kids and if he did, he realized afterward that was what he was doing and apologized. For instance, one night in a casual dining restaurant when my son was about six, Tanner was playing with his glass of water by trying to spoon the ice out of the glass.
"I wouldn't let you girls do that," my dad said, to which I responded, "Dad, sometimes you just have to pick your battles."
I promptly forgot our conversation, but dad must've been thinking about it throughout dinner and on the way home. When we got home, he said, "You know Kar - you're right, and I'm sorry. Sometimes I forget what a challenge it can be to raise young kids. You do have to pick your battles."
That was what he did. If he felt he overstepped, if he felt he stepped outside of his integrity, he apologized. And he probably apologized a lot. My dad was, after all, human.
There were things that stood out about my dad to virtually everyone: his humor, his intelligence, his integrity, his big heart, his kindness, compassion, and dedication to community service, and his devotion to his family. He set a tremendous example for his children and grandchildren. He did what he thought was right, he told the truth (except when he was teasing the kids - then he virtually never told the truth), and he cared deeply for others. He was a friendly guy who always greeted people warmly and made them feel welcome. In his career, he was a high school guidance counselor and in his private time, he spent countless hours in community service, feeding the homeless and working with the underserved and disenfranchised. He and my mom served sandwiches to the homeless in downtown Bellingham, created and served a community meal for people who just needed some hot food, and engaged in a number of similar activities.
Dad treated everyone with dignity and respect. I remember a walk through Bellingham with my parents and son one afternoon, and we came across a man who appeared to be homeless carving a piece of wood on the steps of an old building. As we stopped to look at the building, my parents engaged him in conversation, asking what he was carving, what it meant, and how he'd learned to carve. They asked what he did with his carvings. They treated him like they would anyone else they encountered; there wasn't a hint of condescension or judgment from either of them. They didn't ignore him or walk away. They engaged him. Because he was a human, and they knew and recognized that.
My mom and dad were married for 55 years, and they were devoted to each other. Although we moved away from our hometown, my sisters and I seldom worried about them because they had each other. The shared faith, intellectual and spiritual curiosity, the love of laughter, a love of sports, a dedication to community service, and a deep and abiding love for one another. My dad loved and cared for my mom in small and big ways that were beautiful to witness. I can't imagine her without him, and I couldn't imagine him without her.
There is so much more I could say about my dad because he had a life well-lived. He crafted a full life in which he engaged in all of the things that were important to him. He never let grass grow under his feet; he was a man always on the go overflowing with good will and laughter.
Last night as we were driving home from the memorial, Jim said, "The world is a crappier place without him," but I disagree. The world is a better place for his having been in it, and his legacy will live on in all of the lives he touched. He was a man who did what he believed was right, and he taught his children and grandchildren to do the same. And through that, who he was is not lost to the world; it is multiplied. His legacy of love and giving lives on in all of the lives he touched, and the world is an infinitely better place for his having been here.