Content Warning: Death and Dying
Last week, a friend of mine crossed over, and I helped her do it.
A little over a year ago, Shelby had a headache that she couldn’t shake. She went to the doctor, and it turned out that her headache was due to a brain tumor. She had surgery, and they successfully removed the tumor. However, the tumor was near the part of the brain that controls anxiety, and hers became very difficult to control.
Her husband, Jon, and her best friend, Lisa, were incredibly supportive, doing everything they could to help her heal. In spite of that, eight months ago, she was hospitalized.
Unfortunately, because of my schedule, and living in a different community, I was not able to visit her very often. Between my few visits, and through updates from Lisa, I witnessed her slow deterioration.
And then, just over a week ago, the update came that if we wanted to visit Shelby, we needed to do it soon, because her time was almost up. I stopped by to see her on my way home from my girls weekend. I don’t know how long I sat with her. Not long enough. I talked to her quietly while she slept, gave her Reiki, and prayed to Goddess that if it was her time to pass, that she do it with peace and ease. And if it was not her time, that Goddess would kindle within her the will to live.
I planned to go back on Friday, because I had classes all week, and my son’s band concert. Thursday the word came from Lisa that Shelby might not make it to Friday. So after my class, I headed out, not sure when, or if, I would be home.
There was quite a crew in Shelby’s room when I arrived; Jon, and Lisa, and another friend of Shelby’s, Debbie. Her sister, Nikki, also came by. We talked, and laughed, and shared stories and favorite (and sometimes irreverent) memories of Shelby. The Gayatri Mantra played on repeat in the background.
During this time, Shelby’s breathing was labored, gasping and with long pauses. She was not conscious, though I swear she reacted to some of the stories. I sat near her and gave her Reiki, and I could feel her discomfort from the pain, and fear, both of the pain and of dying. There was too much activity in the room for her to really be peaceful.
Eventually, almost everyone went home to get some rest. Lisa stayed, planning to spend the night in the hospital room with her, and I stayed to minister.
I talked to her, held her hand, and stroked her forehead. Lisa sat with her, also maintaining contact with her. She shared with me that the Goddess Shelby felt most connected with was Diana, so I called on Diana to be present, as well as Hekate in her role as psychopomp to help guide Shelby’s passing. I could feel that she was ready to go, and also afraid. And I could feel the presence of her mother and father, watching and waiting to welcome her.
Lisa told me that Shelby really enjoyed my healing waterfall guided meditation. I had given it to her when I first learned that she was unwell. So I played that for her. During the meditation, Shelby started to relax, and began to release her bonds with her body. It was gradual, and tentative. Her breathing became less labored, though there were still long pauses. The tension in the room, and in her body, began to ease.
Though I didn’t speak out loud, I felt connected with her, and we were definitely communicating. I encouraged her through the whole process. At the end of the healing waterfall meditation, I sensed her confusion, because it talked about rejoining spirit and body, and she had already begun leaving. I reminded her that it was okay.
Then I played A Walk with Artemis Guided Meditation, since Diana was her Goddess. Her spirit began releasing even more, once again in cautious stages. Shelby became very relaxed, all sense of fear and anxiety and tension disappeared. By the point in the meditation where you spend time in the pool with Artemis and the nymphs, her spirit was free. The sense of joy was euphoric!
We waited a bit before calling the nurse, to make sure she had actually passed. We didn’t want to jar her out of her peaceful state. And we kept thinking we saw or felt breath. Finally, I read a prayer from A Book of Pagan Prayer by Ceisiwr Serith:
Old Man, ferry this one across safely, bringing her swiftly and without detour to the other side of the great sea.
Pole your boat here to this place and perform your duty.
Her fare is paid, her place secured, so take her aboard and carry her away, over the sea, following the setting Sun, to the landing place before the great city where the Lord of Death rules.
Bring this one before he who sits on his throne.
Make her name known to the ruler there.
Make smooth the way, open the doors, clear the path, unlock the gates.
Gerontos, this one is starting on a great journey.
Stand by her until she is safely home!
It was an incredibly powerful, beautiful, peaceful and loving moment. She was supported by her best friend, and… me. I am so grateful and honoured to have been there, to have been able to give her one last gift. My eyes are tearing up just thinking about it, not with sadness though, with overwhelming gratitude and the beauty of that moment.
I’ve been thinking about her, and that night, all weekend. There’s a part of me that cannot believe what I experienced. That’s the stuff of fantasy and science fiction, right? And another part of me feels I’ve uncovered a gift I didn’t know I had. I keep coming back to gratitude. I’m sad to have lost a friend. I have wonderful memories with her to smile about. I’m glad that we were friends. I’m thankful that Lisa was able to be with her, and keep me updated. I’m grateful she found the peace she wanted in her passing.
PS. There is a fundraiser for Shelby’s family. She is survived by her husband and three children, ages 9, 11, and 18, and all funds raised will go to support them.