Everyone’s dying to teach us lessons, especially the dead.

Today, I am feeling ALL the feelings and here’s why:

Back in September, a past Boudoir client of mine lost her life to the Big C (dirty little bastard that it is). She was young and she fought really fucking hard to stay alive so she wouldn’t leave her husband and two year old daughter behind, but sometimes, even though we don’t realize it, our time is up, we’ve learned all we need to learn, and it’s our time to go home. Even more often though, the minute our loved ones pass away, they leave a lesson for us to learn while we journey through our grief over their loss.

I’ve learned this lesson through my journey through grief for Cora. In fact, I’ve learned so many lessons from her death that some days I feel as though I know everything and nothing can surprise me.

Not today.

In September, a few days after Dana passed away, I woke up in the middle of the night with a strong urge to look at the photos I’d taken of her. I returned to sleep, but first thing in the morning, I sat down and pulled up her photos. I sat there, staring at her beautiful face and knowing that her family was just beginning to feel the all-consuming emptiness that grief fills us up with when the most important people in our lives pass away and someone or something whispered to me that the photos would be needed. Not just the photos she had chosen, but ALL of the photos I’d taken at her session. I gathered them all up, copied them to my desktop, and left them alone. I knew they would surface again.

A few days ago, Dana’s husband contacted me through Facebook and introduced himself. He explained who he was and asked if I had any more of the photos that I’d taken from our session together in 2010. I, of course, immediately felt that tug in my belly that, of late, lets me know my intuition is sharply honed, and I knew that it was probably Dana who had let me know I’d need the pics eventually. So, I sat down and imported her entire shoot into Lightroom and edited all of the pics that I had left untouched since her session. It took me all day and I had to periodically walk away from my computer because I couldn’t see her through my mask of tears.

I wasn’t crying for her. She is in the most amazing place, feeling a love that is all-consuming and all-knowing. I was crying for all of the people left behind who have to stay the course of loss and have to weather the turbulent sea of grief. The ones who haven’t died (like I did at the end of my grief journey) and had a Near Death Experience to set their hearts at ease and put them in constant touch with their deceased loved ones. The pain of that loss is so unbearable if you don’t experience the miracle of being able to reach out and feel your dearly departeds all around you.

I wept for them. For their pain. For their loss. For the uphill battle with grief that they are engaged in right now. I know that pain. I know that loss. I’ve been through that battle. And it sucks ass crackers of epic proportions.

But even through feeling all of the feelings, something else shone through for me – something profound and uplifting and beautiful. My job allows me to capture the essence of people and preserve it, for the rest of time. My easy relationships with clients allow me to catch all that is THEM and keep it frozen in time. And, best of all, when something tragic happens and one of these amazing people I am privileged to work with passes away, I can help their loved ones through their grief by giving them a huge piece of that person’s essence in a simple photograph.

A simple photograph.

How amazing is that? How blessed am I to do what I love and be able to help people at the same time!

Like I said, I am feeling all the feelings today, but mostly, I feel grounded and content and amazingly blessed to be able to help people- in any way I can – to get through their journey, whatever it may be.

Today is my last day in my 30’s and I could not have asked for a better lesson, better learning experience, better opportunity to learn and grow a little more.

RIP Dana Ranger and thank you, so much, for the lesson today. 🙂untitled-23

One love ya’ll. One love.

Conversations With Mom (AkA My Near Death Adventure) Part 1

Where do I even start? For nearly two weeks I have been sitting down to write about little bits and pieces about everything I can remember from the day I almost died and left my body.

At the time, I didn’t comprehend it, but a few days later I realized I had gone through a Near Death Experience (or NDE as people tend to call them). The way I remember it, my body was in such dire straits that my soul decided to leave my body and seek help elsewhere and, in that “other” place, I found much more than my mind can comprehend.

Even now, I struggle to put into words what my mind and heart are feeling. I have written and re-written certain parts of my experience so many times that I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to articulate them. However, I know that I need to share this with everyone, so I am going to do my best to get it all out, even if it falls short of how it really was.

Here goes!

During the afternoon of March 14th, Greg decided to go for a motorbike ride and I told him that I was going to lie down because all of my joints were achy and I was feeling kind of off. A couple hours later, I woke up and felt as though I were on fire. My head felt as though it was trying to explode, my throat had razor blades rubbing against it, and my neck and lower back were sore and stiff and throbbing. The last thing I remember while being in my body is getting up to take my temperature, seeing it was really high and texting Greg that he needed to come back and take me to the hospital. I knew something was really wrong, but I didn’t have the strength to get up and drive myself and wasn’t thinking clearly, so didn’t think to call an ambulance. That’s the last thing I remember clearly about being in my body.

My next clear memory is of floating in a white mist that was dry and warm and felt like a soft blanket wrapped around me. I didn’t have a body anymore but rather felt as though I was spread out into tiny particles, which were mingled with a bazillion other tiny particles that all felt familiar to me, as though I recognized them. I know, that sounds SO WEIRD – I was hanging out with my buddies, The Particles – but that’s the only way I can describe it. Not only did I feel spread out and connected to all the other particles, but I also felt amazing. Not just amazing, but BRILLIANTLY AND BEAUTIFULLY COMPLETE. I knew that there was absolutely nothing wrong with me and that I was finally HOME. And loved. One other time in my entire life, I felt a love so deep that it was all-consuming—the day our daughter was born—and this love I was now feeling, as a mish-mash of particles in this nowhere place, was thousands of times more powerful than that love had been.

It was everything. It was endless. It was flowing into me and through me and into the others and, together, we were the purest form of love.

I have no idea how long I was in that place, but I know that I never wanted to leave it. Ever. I had absolutely no other feeling there except for love. It is actually indescribable.

My next memory is waking up on a lounge chair, in front of a beautiful pool, with palm trees and birds and a warm wind blowing through my hair. I was sipping a pink martini-like drink, enjoying the feeling of the sun and feeling incredibly peaceful and again, full of love.

And my long-dead mom was lounging next to me beside the pool, along with my childhood dog, an Alaskan Malamute named Lasha. I hung out with them for what seemed like an endless day and my mom and I talked about everything that was going on in my life.

While we were talking, the pool in front of me became a real-time movie screen with the scene of my trip to the hospital unfolding before me. Every once in a while, I would look away from my mom and look into the pool and I’d be able to hear and see everything that was happening.

I would be able to feel what was happening to me, but it didn’t hurt.

At one point, I decided to “pop into” the hospital and float above my body, while watching a doctor pushing a needle into my lower back. I was hunched over one of those rolling trays, propped up on pillows while Greg held my hand, and my body kept jumping while the doctor pushed the needle in. I could feel the needle going in. Feel his fingers on my lower back. I was crying there on the bed, but from my floating vantage point, I also felt wonderful and couldn’t really understand what all the fuss was about. Greg was white and had bags under his eyes and he looked terrified and I tried to tell him that I was totally fine, that I wasn’t in pain and that I felt great. Then, suddenly, I was the doctor and I looked down to see my hands working the needle in, trying to find the spot between little bones where I could extract some fluid. I was simultaneously frustrated because “the patient” kept jumping and moving the needle out of place and also because I could feel my body shaking and jumping. I was three people at once and it seemed perfectly normal. I accepted it without thinking. As the doctor, I told the nurse to give me something to calm me down and then I waited for her to do it. I floated down the hall with her and watched her fill up a needle and return to my bedside and inject something into my IV line. I popped out of both bodies and watched for a while longer from my floating self – the part of me that was free to go wherever.

This time, I was facing the doctor and watching him frown as he once again tried to stick the needle into my back. He couldn’t do it and he signaled the nurse to follow him out. I followed them out too and hovered above them while he told her that he couldn’t get the sample of fluid. He said they needed Dr. Ichbal (at least, that’s what I thought he said) to come and do the LP for him. (I looked up what LP meant as soon as this memory came back to me and it means Lumbar Puncture or Spinal Tap). The doctor was sure I had meningitis and he told the nurse that my temperature was too high and that my organs were going to start shutting down and that my brain would be affected if they didn’t bring my fever down immediately. He said I was in serious trouble. He told her that everyone needed to wear masks around me and that I needed to have a mask on too, for everyone’s protection.

Then I completely lost interest and stepped out of the pool, completely dry, and returned to my lounge chair with my mom. This sort of thing happened many times while I was poolside. I would just pop into the room, watch what was happening and then pop back out to sit in the sun and talk to my mom. I watched two young guys give me a CT scan; watched myself being wheeled through the main part of the ER with a mask over my face and Greg walking behind my bed; watched Greg fill up a styrofoam cup with ice chips and bring it back into the room they had quarantined me in, etc. And the weirdest part was that it felt totally real. Time didn’t exist and it was normal for me to be in two or three places at once.

When I’d been home for a few days, it jolted me to realize that time doesn’t happen chronologically, but all at once, on many different planes or levels or whatever you want to call it. And we are not confined to our bodies, but rather spread throughout many of these planes, in touch with everything at once. I know, so hard to wrap the human brain around, but I feel as though I KNOW this is the way it is and most people are just never aware of it.

There is so much more to say about this, but I will be writing a series of blogs about it so I can focus on one topic at a time.

I know now that my mom was not just my mom. She was everyone — all those I have ever lost—mom, Cora, my grandparents, my uncle, friends, my first husband, all the babies I’ve carried who didn’t make it and all those people connected to my life who are still alive. She told me multiple times that, “we are one and we are love”.

I didn’t understand that at all when I woke up in the hospital, but as the days pass, I feel it. There is a hum in the back of my mind that I know is the vibration of everything that exists (here or on the other side), like a low-grade electrical current in my body. I feel as though I have woken up from a place where my mind was fogged over for many years and now the fog has cleared.

I understand people more than I ever have before. People who are cruel, who hurt others, who hurt themselves, who love everyone, who give selflessly, who die for their beliefs…I understand them all and I can no longer judge or condemn them for their actions. Surprisingly, even the people in my life who I have previously considered my enemies, judged, hated, or any other number of other negative emotions I have allowed myself to feel toward them, are now making me feel grateful. I now understand that we are connected and that, somewhere along the line, I have contracted with their souls to help me learn a lesson or to help teach them a lesson. They are a necessary and welcome part of my life lessons. I wouldn’t learn or grow my soul’s experience without them. So I feel a huge amount of gratitude for all of the people who have ever caused strife in my life and helped me to grow my soul.

And something mind-blowing has come out of this. I have lost so many people – the hardest to deal with being my mom, my son and my daughter. The day our Cora died, my life changed drastically and I entered into a new normal that consisted of a weight of sadness that pressed down on my shoulders every second of every day. Even when, after a couple years, the weight of it lessened a little, I still carried on through life with a ball of underlying sadness inside me, wound up and ready to roll through me anytime it felt like it. Every day, I felt it there, weighing me down, demanding extra strength from me, making me work extra hard to be happy and remember to laugh and live. I believed it would always be there and I just accepted that this is the way it would always be.

The first thing I felt when I woke up in the hospital was the complete absence of the weight of grief. It is simply gone. All I feel now is love and joy that all of my loved ones are always with me. I know that I can’t see them and I can only feel them and hear them at certain times, but within me resides an unchangeable certainty that we never really die. We simply live on in each other and in other places, all at the same time, forever—helping each other to learn and grow. If I could take any part of this experience and give the meaning of it to everyone, it would be this one concept because the peace it brings and the fear it abolishes would carry the entire world into a whole new level of compassion and understanding…Holy Shitsnacks! I left my body for a bit and came back as a hippy. I should probably stop shaving, smoke a truckload of weed each day and get a peace sign tattooed on my ass.

We are one and we are love.