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Graceful Dying: The Dogs, Me, and Hospice

Here's some background on my spiritual journey.  Years ago, discovering the healing and vibrational powers of crystals, I entered the metaphysical world full force, taking classes,  trying different modalities as a client and patient (full body smudging, auric cleansing, rebirthing, past life regressions, meditations, and more) and then as a student and eventual practitioner.  My favorite tool was the Tarot, preferably the Hanson-Roberts deck, and I'd supplement this with pendulum work until I became confident enough in my clairvoyance to use psychometry (a gift I received from Carol Romine) and inner vision.  I worked at The Crystal Garden in Boynton Beach along with  Carol, Amy Volkers ( a great astrologer), Linda Kanin (an intuitive and teacher), owner Margaret Ann Lembo, and my friend Robin, who entered metaphysical work with me, both of us novices.    I did readings and taught classes in Tarot, Automatic Writing, and Intuitve Development.  At the time, Robin had developed a unique method of picking up information by holding and pressing various points on a person's palm, calling  it "psychic palms," and she astounded me with her accuracy.  I wanted so much to be as clear and precise in my readings and felt deflated when I wasn't.  Here was my first lesson in listening to Divine guidance.  As I meditated on this and asked why I wasn't as psychic as my friend, a voice from Spirit told me:   

                              Work on your spirituality, not your psychic ability, and everything
                              will come to you as you need it, in its proper time.

I listened and shuffled my priorities.  I worked on  healing, first myself, and then others.  The personal healing was a traumatic and painful journey  I wouldn't wish  on others (see some of my earlier posts about the buried memories that surfaced).  But it was necessary and promising as it cleared out blockages and brought in more Light, more Light, more Light. (We can't see well in the dark.) I took Reiki I, II, and III and then began teaching it.

One day, riding in the car, I rummaged through old hopes and desires and lamented the lack of scientific ability and squeamishness that made my becoming  a veterinarian impossible.   "I wish I could work with animals."  That same Divine voice said, "You can."  And it was like, WOW!  I COULDA HAD A V-8!    I CAN use my metaphysical gifts with animals and the people who love them.  In fact, I would PREFER to.  And the Universe supported me fully.  From then on, I reserved my Tarot readings for myself and close friends upon request and since then have devoted and limited my practice to animals, doing communication sessions, Reiki sessions, pre-and post life readings.  More and more, my clients were looking for end-of-life guidance, which is where direct communication with the animal provides the correct answers.  I have loved every minute of my work.

Through this path, I  "grew up" and learned with each new experience.    I have since lost five of my own dogs to death....actually transition.....I'd lost others prior, but with these I became an active escort, accompanying them as they left their bodies, never leaving them alone or uncradled.  I held each of them as they took their last breath and long after, which was a sacred privilege.  I would like to honor them my naming them here: Angelo, my standard poodle; Kasha, my mini schnauzer; Seamus, my Irish Water Spaniel; Frenchie, my French Bulldog, and Gracie, my last mini schnauzer.  I can still close my eyes and see each of them as their spirits left them and their bodies became empty carpets in my arms.

So it was not a difficult adjustment to become a Hospice chaplain.  People  react differently to death; either they are emotionally burdened thinking of it or they take steps to distance themselves from such thoughts.  But what I learned from the animals about the grace of being present at death led me to Hospice chaplaincy.  Instead of remaining  "Lisa Shaw, the quirky one who thinks she can talk to animals," I enrolled at St. Thomas University where I completed a traditional M.A. program in pastoral ministries, specializing in Loss and Healing.  I finished in December.  The next step was to enter a Clinical Pastoral Education program, a requirement for chaplaincy that entails class and a 7 month clinical internship.  I have been working as a chaplain intern  in a hospital Hospice unit since November. 

Last night, 3 months into my internship, I was present at a death for the first time.  I knew it would come...but I didn't know when...and it came with a family I'd spent time with in the afternoon.  I stood at the foot of the bed and watched as the nurse checked for a pulse for one full minute, then touched his face, positioned his head to the side on the pillow, and gently pulled the sheets up to his neck.  There the foot of the bed and actually felt as if we were all in a sacred temple enveloped by Light.  He looked truly peaceful without the belabored breathing and "death rattle" I'd heard an hour earlier.  His daughter, a woman in her late 40s or thereabout, bent down, kissed his hand, and said, "I love you, Daddy."  And that was it.  I think I was more emotional than she was at the moment, and she looked at me, tears on my face, her eyes red rimmed, and thanked me for being there. 

Some people --  no, most people -- aren't able to do this, and I still can't quite fathom how it is that I can.  Had I been told 20 or 30 years ago that this is the work I'd be doing today, I'd have dismissed the predictor as cognitively impaired. 

How is it that I can stand still in the presence of death?  Because what the animals have shown me in their transitions is that confronting death simply means being still in the presence of God (or whatever name you want to give the universal Mystery that gives and takes life). When we are there, we believe and become our true nature: holy.


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