It is an indescribable privilege to be invited into this stage in a person’s life where they are on the threshold of leaving their body, flowing with many thoughts and feelings, taking stock, shifting their viewpoint, experiencing deep love, perhaps regret, as well as fear about the unknown.
What does it mean to offer end of life healing? This process is necessarily individualised in response to the person’s needs in any given moment. My experience of being a healer in this situation is to hold a field of potential open for the person, having an open mind about the fact that miracles can and do happen as well as acknowledging that it is much harder to reverse a deeply-seated condition when it’s considered terminal by the medical profession. While changes in the physical body do indeed follow shifts in the energy body, it is nothing short of a miracle when someone experiences a remission however this is not guaranteed. At present there is no one on earth who has the capacity to heal with a single touch every time. So this said, what does healing at the end of life mean? To try to answer this here are three stories.
Lionheart – Chris’s Story
I hadn’t seen Chris for 15 years when his partner got in touch to say that he had been asking for me. By the time our acquaintance was rekindled on the phone he was in hospital with days left. He was in denial and really struggling with death, especially leaving his two young sons without a father. We talked about his life, we talked about any regrets he might have, about anything which he wanted to heal now to avoid passing heaviness onto his children, about anyone he needed to apologise to or tell them he loved. He identified as agnostic but remembered how when I had laid my hands on his shoulders 15 years before this had given him pause. It was his memory of this simple act which had made him ask his partner to get in touch with me. He was perplexed about his colon cancer, having been a vegetarian all his adult life it didn’t seem fair; he had also talked previously about some trauma he had experienced as a child.
Chris was hoping for a miracle and I explained to him that while miracles can happen, and that I was certainly open to this possibility, that another aspect of healing is to help a person pass to spirit smoothly without carrying baggage or leaving baggage for those left behind to deal with. I explained to him that I would bring his energy body into my room and work with him and then get in touch again. We rang off. I called in his energy body and called upon the nature beings to assist him in releasing all that was heavy and stuck within him. Later on his partner shared that he was sleeping more peacefully and he was more relaxed. I got a message a day or two later to say that the doctors had given him hours to live. I rang again and this time a mutual friend spoke on the phone because by then Chris was unable to speak. I asked the friend to tell him that I would tune into him again and to send him my love.
We rang off and I then called his energy into the room with me. After releasing more heavy energy we did the death spiral to help his energy body to move cleanly out of the physical body: as he was lifting up between the dimensions I saw a lion in my mind’s eye and I said to him telepathically ‘it’s your choice whether you go or stay but if you want to you can grab the lion’s mane and go’ and at that moment he grabbed the lion’s mane and was gone. About an hour later his partner said that he had passed peacefully. About a day later she wrote ‘my lion passed peacefully’. This was an incredible affirmation about what I saw in those last moments because I had not told her about the lion who assisted Chris (and it was news to me that she referred to him as her lion). It was an extraordinary privilege to be invited into this transition and it spoke to me of the truism for all meditators which is that meditation is a practise for dying ‘well’ – ie peacefully. Sogyal Rinpoche writes about this vividly in the opening pages of The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying.
Crow Medicine – Polly’s Story
Polly was a woman with whom I had worked ceremonially over 3 or 4 years in support of her work. When diagnosed with cancer it had metastasised and she was given six weeks to live. She too was someone who had a very healthy lifestyle. It didn’t make any sense at all. She invited me to visit her and to do some healing work. I went on a walk and lay down on a hill very near where she lived to tune into her energy in preparation for going to visit. As I closed my eyes I heard a very loud caw from a crow. It felt like it was right inside my head. I opened my eyes and asked if this was a message. When I shut my eyes again the same thing happened. When I looked up the meaning of Crow Medicine it was a perfect fit for Polly and made absolute sense. Amongst other things Crow Medicine is about manifesting Universal law and this was very much what she was about as a barrister. She had dedicated the last ten years to making universal law manifest on earth in working with others to create a law against Ecocide.
When I went to see her she was full of her usual fiery spirit despite physical frailty. She was hoping for a miracle. We talked about Crow Medicine and did some energy work after which she felt more relaxed and able to sleep better. The next time I saw her was in the hospice. Her husband talked at length and listening to him was a really important aspect of the bigger picture. In spite of her increased frailty she had the same extraordinary warmth and dedication to her work. She did not want to die, of course. We did some energy work but on this occasion the hug at the end was the most important thing that happened between us. She left her body a few days later and I was amongst many people who felt her everywhere. Her husband said that when she died there was a smile on her face and that the hospice nurses had rarely seen this in all their years of working with the dying. This is a testament to Polly’s strength of spirit. She died consciously and so in accordance with Crow Medicine law in her next incarnation she will remember her previous life.
Heron Fly Her Home – Sara’s Story
By the time I started working with Sara she was in the last stages of cancer. Her husband and I spoke on the phone and I rang off and worked with her energy remotely. As I was working a swallow flew into the bedroom where they were. She then slept very well. The three of us took this as a sign that there was some work we could do together and I then visited her almost weekly for the next four months.
Sara was a deeply spiritual, gentle and kind soul with a wonderful talent for writing. She also had a passionate and fiery nature which expressed itself through her capacity for visualisation. I listened to her talk about her life and family and her experiences of hospital. The work we did together was about helping her energy to flow and this helped her to relax and sleep better. As a practitioner I was consciously keeping the field of possibility open and seeking to harmonise her energies with the energies of nature. We made offerings to the land and the spring and this chimed with her love of trees in particular. We also made an offering to harmonise her family relationships, to include her husband and children in her healing process. There was one occasion when I arrived and she was exhausted and overwhelmed, in this healing session we paid particular attention to her connection to earth. Later that day she danced to some music and seemed to have a new lease of life – it was a beautiful moment of her dancing with her husband filmed by one of their sons. According to her husband she was a ‘changed woman’ for a day.
We carried on working together and she had many ups and downs with the medication and its effect as well as the state of her health. The most important aspect seemed to be about acceptance and an invitation to her to sense her light body. We talked about transcending limitations and the idea of integrating different spiritual and religious practises, about seeing common threads rather than feeling conflicted by differences. After this she went into the woods at dawn and a stag came and barked and barked. This felt like a message to her and she went and prayed and harmonised all her religious influences. She found that the release of heavy energy from her light body helped her to overcome many of the fears which had been holding her back (exorcised was the word she used) and this led to an extraordinary vision of creating a healing community. There seemed to be an acceptance or surrender to death at one level, although on another level - especially with children and a beloved husband and family - this was also extremely painful. The last time I saw her for healing she was ready for me to lift her energy body out of her physical body. This is like a ‘practise run’ and also deeply cleansing for the energy body. The morning she left her body I received a message to let me know. I was at a stone circle and I stood in the middle and drummed for her, talking to her, in a reverie. My daughter and her friend who were sitting nearby later told me that a heron had flown really low and swooped close by. They both felt that it was Sara’s spirit leaving.
‘Heron fly you home
Journey to the soul of our own land
Where the mothers wait for your return
Heron fly you home’
Carolyn Hillyer, Sacred House, pp114
Sara’s husband said that the carer who was with her the night before she passed said that in her 20 years of work she had rarely seen anyone so serene and peaceful at such a late stage. She was devoted to her healing on all levels and touchingly willing to learn and unravel all that was blocking her. To this end she employed therapists in many modalities and while this did not bring her the remission from cancer that everyone dearly wished for, it brought her a very peaceful transition, her soul integrated.
It is an exceptional privilege to be admitted to this tender stage of life. I am struck by the animals and birds who appeared bearing messages for these three souls: and their appearance unbidden, unexpected and yet relevant, demonstrate to me the authenticity of the connection which is being made between each person and spirit as the energies are being woven between the worlds. As a practitioner I am indebted to the Nature Beings who respond to the call and bring about solace, soul retrieval, spiritual wholeness.