Lights Along the Runway * Leaving the Body In Death

When death comes, let it be no stranger to be feared, but an old friend to take us Home. In shamanic, transformative meditation we may spontaneously find ourselves journeying to the moment in time when we will leave, once again, this very familiar world…

Occasionally, western doctors, nurses, and religous teachers cautiously bring up the idea of death as an event we can and should think about, even prepare for.  Seldom do they discuss it as a process we already understand on some levels, a process whose steps are embedded within body and psyche.  Yet dying is the other half of life; it completes our birth.  Surely the body – as well as psyche and soul – knows how to die?

Julie McFadden, a hospice nurse, has written a book – and an article to which I am linking here – to tell us we should not fear death. It is indeed a natural process which she has observed unfolding for decades, one with built-in biological guidelines to carry us out of this life.  In most cases, though not all, she tells us, death arrives in a manner which confers peace and dignity, with minimal to no pain.

This makes sense to me, because if we believe in reincarnation, then yes, we have passed through the dying experience many, many times. Of course, let’s be real, here. Not all of these deaths will have been peaceful or pain-free, but the actual process of leaving will have taken us, again and again, down a well-worn path.

My father died in a hospice, and it was, until the end, not a pleasant experience. There were family politics arising from a lifetime of painful dynamics only illuminated for me by DNA testing many years after my father’s death.  There, I learned he had not been my father, after all, and this explained so much, though neither parent – nor my biological father – was alive by the time I sat there, confirming a truth his family had suspected when I was born.

But surprisingly, I also encountered some power struggles with staff which I thought – as one who once dreamed of becoming a nun in a medical order – did not become a healing profession.

However, all of this became irrelevant the morning I fell asleep in an old armchair, holding the hand of my now unconscious father in his narrow bed.

In the following moments, I found myself “flying” (it felt exactly like that) beside my father – both wordless as we moved silently though a soft, gentle darkness. Below, I saw my car, my mother, son and I gathered around to leave, so I was seeing ahead, past the coming dawn. But now, we flew straight on, into the unknown, a sense that we were in some way at work, so not talking, even via the telepathy we now used.

Suddenly, a vast mountain range-type barrier rose up before us and I could see it stretched, it seemed, through eternity. All I could think of was “Now, how am I going to get him through that?” Just then, somehow, it simply parted, and we could see through to a distant valley, a V-shape field of beauty that truly, was – and still is – beyond description. As so many others have told us, the colors were indeed incandescent, alive, somehow almost multidimensional. Their vibration was hypnotic, magnetic, and yet – filled with love beyond imagining.

And it was all pulling him, my father, in, to a safe and peaceful landing…I knew I would be needed no more, but I remember my last thoughts were – “I am going across too, I seem to be going in there with him…”

At that moment, I came out of sleep with a start, with dad still lying there and mom running breathlessly down the hall in to the room. It was her turn to sit with him, but I’ll always believe she came running so I would come back, because I wanted only to cross through to that beautiful valley.

Once awake, though, I knew I was where I should be, and I knew too that I had crossed to the Other Side, that this had been no dream.

The nurses said he – the soul-person – was likely gone, that the deep breathing was now just the body pumping out air.  But I also wonder if perhaps our journey across the Border was a rehearsal, so he would not be afraid – perhaps he left a little later, when the body had completely finished its work, and when he knew exactly where, and how, he was going.

What followed next was the lovely experience of seeking out a man called Lou, in the common room, who had been telling me that he was afraid not of death, but of dying.  As soon as I took his hands and told him of my father’s flight, he told me – as he had said on other occasions – “I can see it in your eyes, I can see what you have seen.”  Two days later, I learned that he had made peace with his family and peacefully passed, something for which I have been almost as grateful as for my father’s passing.

My father and I did not plan our joint movements into his death. In fact, it would be many years before I began to experience the world of shamanism, and realized that accompanying someone on their death journey is often a spontaneous part of the shaman’s calling.

Looking back on the Road now, I see now that this was a completion, a promise that had been made, in a time and place that neither of us remembered. Given the very difficult, heart-breaking path he and I had been forced to tread in this life – and perhaps in others – this deathbed event was surprising to me, and to others at the time.

But what I do remember from the weeks and months that preceded his death were the nights lying there, not sleeping, across town from my parents’ apartment. Despite our great trauma, our psychic connection had always been remarkable, and now I could feel his dread, knowing he had said “I am not afraid of death, only of the dying…” And I had – I think now – somehow known I could not bear it, that despite all that we had been through, my love for him outweighed it all, and I could not let him be alone with that fear.

Now, I have come to realize that we can all take steps to ensure that we have as lovely a death as possible. We can prepare for an active, conscious death through meditations in which we practice, as it were, the flight into death. This is not about changing the time or manner of one’s death. It is about going ahead on our personal timeline – moving through that lacy web of space-time – coming to the moment, wherever it is to be, that we will be leaving our physical form and taking Flight as Soul.

The idea of practising for the last breaths we take is not natural to the western mind. But this shamanic flight into death can be gently, gradually introduced as an idea, and small steps in meditation can be taken. Remember, the Higher Self is always there, the partner of the Personality as it navigates through this lifetime. Have faith in your inner Guide.

In our imaginings, let us remind ourselves that when we leave, we set out for another world that we already know very well. We need not force the issue; it is enough to occasionally, in a mystic mood, grasp the moment and briefly visualize – feel – the peace and the certainty as we set out for that distant Shore.

In such moments, we lay down invisible fields of energy, lights along a runway, to carry our Soul outward, on an ancient Flight.

The Sacred Feminine, Lady With the Lamp

And we can do this for others, too. We may make these journeys with those who are dying – some whom we know in this life, some we would not know here and now, but have deep bonds with from other times. We may make these shamanic journeys without ever knowing we do so, deep in sleep.

By making small mental journeys around death and dying a regular part of our spiritual life now, we prepare the Way for a time when perhaps we will be frail, heavily medicated, or even in acute distress. Now is the time, when we are strong in spirit and health, to send ahead on the trail, as it were, the strength of one’s mind and soul.

We need not know Where death waits for us on the trail in order to establish a beach-head there, surrounding our death with beauty, tranquility and invincible gaith. And if we already know that our time is short, we may still have good days, even good hours – moments – in which to do this beautiful thing for ourselves.

Practising our death is not morbid at all, and is surely no different than visualizing a good ski run before competing in the Olympics, or speaking other affirmations which we know the DNA can hear. Nor should we fear lest we bring death closer by treating it as part of life. Our ticket Out was the other half of our ticket In, arranged as part of the Plan. This comforting thought – and small practice “runs” – can help us bear the poignant pain of leaving home here on Earth, once again.

Let us see in our Mind’s Eye the Great Souls who love us – the Guides always with us in our lives here on Earth. They will be there, with old friends and family, as without hesitation we reach for the Light that is God.

The Path opens up before us. We remember we are loved, imperfect though we are. Farewell beloved Earth, and a pause, as we leave the Body – sweet blessings be upon thee, oh Temple of mine...

In time, this visualization will come naturally, until one fine day, when we really do arrive at the Gate of Departure, we’ll board our plane, and taxi with practised ease into take-off position. There, we will await with a tranquil heart the signal, and when it comes, commence the final run into lift-off, following the Lights along the Runway.

© Carol Leigh Rice 2024

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