The first task my spirit helpers assigned me was to examine and define what I personally believed about the death process. They wanted me to review how my Western culture had prepared me, or not prepared me, for the eventuality of a loved one's death.
I was shocked by what I discovered. While my own unusual path of exploration and learning provided m with powerful beliefs and intricate road maps for navigating through the end-of-life experience, Western culture, in general, essentially ignores this entire 'uncomfortable' subject. Fixated on perpetual youth and feel-good-now pursuits, Western culture acts as if death will never come.
It became painfully clear how ill-informed and ill-prepared our society is for the ineffable end-of-life event that will surely touch us all. In this fast-moving culture where elders are often pushed aside, viewed as burdens rather than precious reservoirs of wisdom, the ancient rituals and ceremonies that truly honor aging, and the sacred transition to the afterlife, have all but disappeared. Is it really any wonder we feel shocked, and lost, and utterly terrified when Death's hard knuckles finally wrap upon our door?
My own father was one of these lost and terrified people now, facing the most profound, unknown experience of his life. Like so many others, Dad's natural fear of the unknown was magnified because he had so little real knowledge about where he was going or how he was supposed to get there.
In my many years of counseling and death work, I've noticed that those who've led an essentially 'unexamined life' seem to experience far greater anxiety and suffering as death approaches. They find themselves without any meaningful way to relate to the life they've lived, or to the great mystery that now unfolds before them. Their end-of-life struggle and confusion creates HUGE emotional distress, and their exit, which could be and should be an elegantly peaceful process, is severely hampered. What a terrible travesty this is!
Unfortunately, 'pat' religious dogma that often preempts personal questioning and introspection can never substitute for a gentle, truly meaningful, and deeply explored experience when the end of life draws near. Unsupported by ancient beliefs, the powerful death rituals and ceremonies that once safely guided our forbears into the afterlife, how might we better prepare our 'modern' selves for this inevitable end-of-life experience? What can we expect and what should we believe? Where is our roadmap? Perhaps the Transition Blanket had come to show us the way...
I hardly knew where to begin, but enduring love for my father held my feet to the sacred fire. I was supposed to create some kind of 'transition blanket.' But beyond this, what exactly was I expected to do? If I truly intended to help my father, I needed to act NOW.
Long aware that our beliefs ultimately create our reality, it was time for me to carefully review my own beliefs about the death process, just as the spirits had already advised. I needed to recognize which of 'my beliefs' were actually borrowed, and which were authentically mine. This would help me discover and discard any old, outmoded beliefs that now stood in my way. It was a daunting but necessary task if I hoped to offer my father a peaceful transition.