A Writing Exercise

The exercise is to write on stillness, use the color blue, and include a specific bird – with a time limit of 7 minutes. This is what I wrote:

My heart is dark. Full of pain. Yet the sky is still blue, the sun still shines. I know this because I sit staring out the window, semi-comatose, hours on end. Reflecting on how my life came to this point, to this loss. Time passes without awareness. What seems like the blink of an eye has been a couple hours on the clock. Tears stream down my face and it feels like 50 pound lead weights are strapped to each leg. I don’t know when I will have the energy to get up out of this chair. I’m too heavy and tired to move. In contrast the hummingbird has such energetic wings. The sun reflects the iridescent green as it moves. My sister thinks that’s how Matthew comes back to us.


To put this writing into context, my brother Matthew died 10 years ago and a hummingbird showed up in my sister’s yard just after, and she was (and still is) convinced it’s him. It’s a comfort to think that.

I just started watching the Netflix documentary Surviving Death and people talk about their experience seeing their body from outside their body. What part of them is the observer as the physical body is being resuscitated? It’s a topic that fascinates me.

A friend on mine, a hospice nurse, contributed to The Last Breath: True Stories of Mediumship, the Afterlife & Messages From Heaven. I have known her well for two decades, and she’s had many extraordinary experiences in her years of hospice nursing, being with people as they “crossed over”. There is not an iota of doubt in her mind that there is something on the other side.

My mom was not religious; never ever spoke of God, heaven, reincarnation or the afterlife. She was much too practical, no nonsense, and down-to-earth for that. So it struck me as odd when the last clear and lucid thing she ever said to me was “I want to go home”. That still makes me cry when I think about it. When she knew she was dying, but before she was at the end of life, I would sit at her bedside and tell her not to worry, it was going to be “all good” on the other side because she’d done so much service work in her life. If anyone deserved to go to heaven it was mom, based on decades of volunteering at the schools, food bank and library, doing tax returns at no cost for low-income and elderly, and teaching English as a second language. She believed in schools/libraries/education as the means out of poverty and she put her heart and soul into helping people attain better lives. In retirement she could have been traveling or playing or relaxing, but she worked what was essentially a full-time job with all her volunteering. Telling her she had no worries about what would happen on the other side seemed to reassure her.

I’ve written more words about the writing exercise than I wrote in the writing exercise. I know for sure I miss my brother profoundly. I believe in the soul, that the soul evolves, and what we take from this lifetime is the spiritual growth and lessons. If we’ve had a hard life, we chose that journey for the perfection of the lessons we would learn through the challenges. I believe we are spiritual beings having a human experience, and that the human experience is uniquely designed to help grow our capacity for love and compassion and forgiveness – toward ourselves, and others. I don’t believe when I die I will meet people who died before me in our old bodies; but I do think we travel together as souls who are in relationships with each other from one lifetime to the next. That doesn’t mean I don’t grieve the loss in this lifetime.

At a time when thousands of people a day are losing their lives to Covid-19 around the world, I suspect a lot of us are thinking about loved ones we have lost, wondering if they are present with us in some way here on earth, or if they’re someplace where we’ll meet up and be together again after our own death.

Here is a photo of my brother, not at the age he died, but at the age I like to remember him. When we were kids, when he was full of laughter, mischief, love, light, joy, innocence. Before darkness overtook him. When he was still perfectly happy to wear his hair in a buzz cut. What a beautiful spirit.



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