See Ya 2019

We come to the close of another year– another decade in fact.

2019 was a mixed year for me. It was a struggle. It did not start off well. My father had to have emergency open-heart surgery and shortly after he had a major stroke. My family had to learn how to live differently. Especially for my mother. I am amazed by their resiliency and can proudly say, that I have inherited that.

I moved across the country (again!) to Tampa. Admittedly, it was hard to leave the desert. I loved the desert in Tucson, AZ. Whenever I see images now, I can smell it. Arizona was the first state that I ever lived in besides Massachusetts. It was definitely four years of growth and learning that I can, truly, bounce back from all the shit that life throws at me.

Moving Florida was a great decision simply for the fact that family is here (and those who are not are only within short driving distance or a four-hour flight). I am also making new friendships that I can already tell will be lasting– and one of my best friends from Boston moved here shortly after I did, and we hang out a lot… Can I tell you how important it is to have awesome friends?

Of course, moving to a new state comes with its ups and downs. So far its been a lot of downs, but I am hoping that will change in 2020. One of the hardest things of 2019 was the loss of my spiritual teacher and mentor Brad Kinne (or as I knew him, Balaam). It was a strange loss for me and I had to learn a different way of grieving.  I dedicated the first book of my writings and photography “Grave Spirits” to him…It’s still hard for me and when I think about it too much…well…it hurts.

My Belly Dance business is flourishing more here in Florida than it ever did in Arizona. I am already being booked for some awesome gigs in 2020. It does feel good to be dancing and performing again. Sometimes it’s hard to believe that I have been professionally Belly Dancing for 15 years.

Oh yeah…I did also publish my first book! It’s short, but its a start. 2020 will be a year of writing as I am preparing my second (and longer) book. I am also doing research for a future long term writing goal-focused mainly on the occult workings of Grigory Rasputin.

One of the most important things that happened in 2019 was that I am finally accomplishing my goal of going to college. In 2020 I will be a junior in college. Two more years and then on to my Masters.

I learned in 2019, that you are never too old to follow your dreams. And it’s not to late start fresh. It does mean some heartbreak and frustation- but the road is always open.

2020 is shaping up to be a good year already. I have decided to be softer in the new decade. To let my guard down a bit more than I have in the past-and allow more people in.

I have also decided to do a 365-day gratefulness challenge.

Here is 2020…a new chapter in this book of life.

My New Book

It is small. It took me over a year. But it is done!

Grave Spirits contains a collection of my writing (some published some not) pertaining to death, ancestors, death rites, voodoo and more!

It also contains a bunch of my photography of various cemeteries that I have visited over the years.

If anything! I hope this book makes you a death positive person!

You can purchase it here!

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Grief

Back in September, I lost a very close friend, teacher, and mentor. I had known him for over 17 years. It was a hard loss. I allowed myself time to grieve. I was able to obtain copies of his writings in hopes to s3e11eea45850e506a164770fcad895cf--cemetery-angels-cemetery-statuesomeday carry on his memory and teachings. And thankfully, I was fortunate enough to let him know how important he was to me before he passed away.

It was not easy for me to lose someone so close to me, and I understood the importance of grief. Making sure that not only I honored his memory, but also making sure I was taking care of myself.

The other night I attended a Witches Ball which held an ancestor ceremony to honor those who have passed. As a death positive advocate, anything that honors and recognizes not only death but the death of those closest to us. This was my first ancestor ritual since the passing of my friend. I was fine up until the point where I had to light a candle on the altar. Then it was like the wound opened up wide.

My tears would not stop flowing. In our circle, we yelled the names of our loved ones. I never thought that it would be my friend’s name coming out of my mouth. Especially since in 2005, when I lost a dear friend to domestic violence, he did a special ritual just for her. He knew how much pain I was in and gathered everyone together to hold a ceremony for a person he didn’t even know. And there I was, lighting a candle and shouting his name.

It broke the flood gates for me. It all came rushing it. Grief is weird like that. Even for someone who acknowledges and appreciates death in all aspects. I understand the nature of grief. It ebbs and flows– but never makes it easier.

I recently had a patient whose grandmother passed away. She was in the office inconsolable. I hugged her and said how sorry I was, but I also told her how important it was that she grieves. A week later she showed up looking cheerful and happy. I asked her how she was feeling. She said that she was doing great. She had taken a second job the day after her grandmother died and had been to busy to grieve. She hadn’t allowed herself to feel the pain of loss. She covered it up by intentionally making herself busy. I reminded her that she needed to take the time to remember and honor her grandmother. That it is unhealthy not grieve.

Why are we so afraid to allow ourselves to feel the pain of loss? The death of one we love is a pain that will never go away. And that pain creeps up out of nowhere. And it sucks. But its what we need to do to honor our loved ones and turn our pain into something so much more.

 

Death Denial

bc7df36ec1efdcedd1bae56db709ecf8One major flaw with humans is our ability to deny just about anything. Even when it’s right in front of our faces. Especially death.

After the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic– no one ever discussed it. If it was discussed, it was in a passing comment or a three-sentence paragraph.

Same thing for the 1831 cholera pandemic in England and beyond. After more than 52,000 lives were claimed to cholera- it was never discussed or mentioned.

Oh yes, and the Black Death? The bubonic plague that decimated Europe for three years; again, rarely discussed.

The 1918 flu is never mentioned in textbooks when World War I is discussed; even though it killed more than the actual war itself.

Is it our fear of death that prevents us from actually acknowledging its existence? Even when its everywhere? Are we so afraid to acknowledge our own mortality?

I understand the trauma of seeing people dying every day. Seeing coffins stacked up. Mass graves being dug. But after it’s over…..

I recently had a patient who lost her grandmother. She was a wreck when she came into the office.  I offered my condolences and some advice on keeping healthy during a time of intense grief (I have experienced it way too many times). The following week she came back in, and while she looked tired, she didn’t seem like someone who just lost someone. I asked her the obvious question: How are you doing?

Her response was basically, “I am working two jobs and going to meetings so I can’t think about it.”

I jumped right away into healer mode. I explained to her how bad it was not to acknowledge the death of her grandmother, but also her own grief. Keeping in grief will only cause more damage in the future than actually dealing with it when its there. When I worked in hospice I saw it all the time. Family members not dealing with the reality that their loved one is dying. When death came they would just brush it off. The “we knew it was coming,” quote I heard a thousand times.

What about death is so frightening that when it’s right there we ignore it? Never discuss it. Never want to deal with it. Even those with strong religious and spiritual lives deny the obvious.

We are all dying.

Accepting our own mortality, even in the face of death itself, can not only empower us with the ability to live our lives to the fullest but also give us the strength we need when our loved ones pass away. We are not as fragile as we think we are. Pretending that death will not happen–or, that death happened on a large scale– is only denying our ability to recognize our own mortality.

And as for those who passed away- how horrible is it to just forget them? Forget what happened? Forget how they died? Never discussing it again. Don’t they deserve respect? I was so happy when I hear that the Mutter Museum in Philadelphia was holding a mournful march to honor those who died in the 1918 flu epidemic.  Finally acknowledging not only the victims but also death itself.

Until we can stop denying the obvious- we are never going to truly live.

 

Life. Death. Love.

“Nothing can happen more beautiful than death.” – Walt Whitman

It is always hard for me to wrap my mind around why people are so afraid of getting old and afraid of death. After all, it’s going to happen to all of us. I can appreciate the wanting to live a good long life- free of disease. But why try to slow down the aging processimages? Why not accept the inevitable— and actually use it to create a well-lived life?

We started to die the day we were born.

When people first meet me, their initial thoughts are usually that I am a dark and mysterious girl with a morbid fascination. After all,  I make jewelry with vertebrae (human and animal). I paint animal skulls. I post images of death in all its forms. My home is decorated with all things death-related– skulls, skeletons, bones. My life is dedicated to the dead.

I have been fascinated with death since childhood. Being born on November 1st, it’s hard not to fall in love with images of death! My birthdays were always filled with bits and pieces of Halloween and All Souls Day. My work with dead goes back as far as I can remember-even within the realm of imaginary friends in childhood.

As I grew older, I began to realize that my life was destined to be entwined between the realms of the living and the dead.

Am I obsessed with death? No.

Do I venerate death? Yes.

I have never been afraid of the concept of death. I understand why most people are. It’s frightening to think about the unknown


I find death comforting. We are all going to end up there. Death is also the one thing in life that does not discriminate; Death does not care if you are rich, poor, what race you are, where you are from, who your family is, what religion you practice, who you pray to. Death is a bit of coming home after a long journey. For me, death is like a waiting lover. Open arms and ready to dance. Morbid? Not really.

My relationship with death has made me love life because Death is humbling. 

When I work with bones–I find it an honor. To hold something so sacred that ones supported the weight of a living thing is a blessing. When I work on a piece, whether painting on a skull or entwining vertebrae into jewelry, I think of what animal once owned those bones. What type of energy that animal had. Where it lived, what it did. I reflect on the essence of the being.

When I work on human bones- its an even greater honor. I think of the person, who they may have been, what they may have done. When I hold a human bone in my hand, I think of my ancestors– of all our ancestors– those who have walked this earth thousands of years before now. Its a sacred honor to me to hold those human bones in my hand.

Imagine if someone told you you had three days to live. Would you really live? Would you break the rules? Would you take risks? Would you be a kinder person?

This is why I love death. It made me learn to live my life with no regrets. I always reflect on the choices

I made, chances I took…things I have said– and I regret nothing.  I am getting older, I am learning that time goes by fast. Age is inevitable. But I have every intention of living my life my way.

In honoring and understanding death- I have learned to appreciate life. Death has humbled me beyond words. Working with and having human bones in my life is one of the greatest honors I could ever have. The dead remind me to live. REALLY live.


So yes, maybe in some strange way- I am obsessed with Death. But its an obsession of absolution. I know that someday I will be like those bones….that will be all that is left of me on this earthly realm. I have no fear of that.