Crossing the River Update

I have gotten some absolutely amazing submissions to the devotional I’m working on for the Beloved Dead.  However, I hope to get some more!  There just aren’t enough yet to publish a robust anthology.  I believe we can get there.

Therefore I’m extending the deadline until September 28th, 2015.

I have more information available here for those interested in submitting.

If you email me in the next few weeks, I may take a very long time to reply, but I will get to it.  I’m currently in the middle of a jaw and tooth infection that has landed me in both the ER and urgent care this week along with the dentist.  I’m on my 2nd round of stronger antibiotics as the 1st didn’t do much good despite the IV administration of a second type.  Because of this I’m on heavy duty pain pills, while having learned that morphine apparently does nothing for me.  I’m dealing with high blood pressure and tachycardia attacks triggered by the stress and pain.  Meanwhile it will be 2 weeks until I have surgery, and I’m terrified that I will be one of the people with Ehlers-Danlos who feels and hears everything but can’t tell the doctor due to anesthesia; Novocaine, Lidocaine, and epidurals decidedly don’t work for me.  I’m having 6 teeth removed, because I have 2 wisdom teeth, a baby tooth, and 3 teeth that have fallen apart due to my faulty collagen.  At this point, we fortunately have the costs covered, which I’m thankful for, so at least there’s that.  If I’m quiet, though, you know why.

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Deathwork Training Update

Slowly but surely, I am getting further along in my death midwife and home funeral certification.  However, my health is still incredibly unstable, and I’m finding myself at an average of 3 doctor appointments a week.  I’m seeing 8 specialists in various disciplines along with a cognitive-behavioral therapist, because who wouldn’t need a therapist when suddenly medical care has become a full-time job?  Yesterday I got the news that brain surgery to place a shunt in was onthe table if medication didn’t keep my symptoms stable.  And that, if I don’t go into remission, I may end up with a shunt anyway. Meanwhile, despite every doctor I’ve seen telling me what a good attitude I have about the fact I have 2 rare diseases and basically the body of a 60-year-old in my 30s,  along with my therapist saying she wished I could go to her group sessions in order to be an example of managing things in a healthy manner, I keep getting told to remain hopeful and positive I will get better by others.  One of my diseases is progressive and will actually get worse as I age.  The brain disease, idiopathic intracranial hypertension or pseudotumor cerebri, has no medication, no treatment, and very little research done specifically for it.  The word idiopathic means they have no idea why my brain is producing too much spinal fluid.  I am pretty resigned to dealing with this my entire life; it’s a better place to be really surprised and happy when things get radically better than to expect the best and have none of it go that way.  When you are 1 in 100,000 people to get a rare disease with no cure, it really is best to go with realistic but willing to do whatever it takes than to be seriously depressed and angry with the universe when suddenly you find yourself headed towards the option of debilitating pain and blindness or brain surgery that doesn’t always fix a problem.  I smile.  I laugh.  I do my best to find fulfilling things to replace my old passions I can no longer do (large-scale gardening, for instance).

I get into this here, because a lot of people donated to me and in turn allowing me to do this training.  None of this current brain-related health issue was in my life when I signed up for the educational program I’m taking, and I’m still dreadfully behind on things promised as rewards for those who donated generously to my education because of it.  There’s a lot of guilt there, because I hate not being able to carry through with it at this point.  I feel like those who donated should be made aware of where I am with all of it…  Which is not as far as I hoped to be.

However, I am pushing through with what I am capable of doing…  Reading, writing, taking the class modules I have to get through, and researching.

After NaNoWriMo in November, I will be setting out to really dig into writing a book on postmortem and funeral rites for the Polytheist community.  I plan on trying to give a summary of historical practices in various civilizations, covering body care and resources for those wishing to embark on a complete home funeral, helping the reader create a funeral that meets both their religious and secular needs inside or outside of a larger community…  Along with an idea for inter-faith help within our local communities and resources for legal questions or further help outside of a religious community.

I am hoping to have it fully ready for publication by the end of next year, though depending on how things go in my own life that’s really a pretty ambitious deadline.  It’s where I am right now.

Looking For Death-Related Prayers and Poems. Help?

I’m currently putting together a guidebook for my work as a death midwife, and eventually I would like to be able to offer the non-copyrighted work to others wishing to get into death work in the Polytheist and Pagan community.

I would really, really love to have a collection of prayers, meditations, and beautifully written words to span various traditions and religions.  I would love to have both historical pieces and modern.

Eventually, I’m considering putting together an anthology of modern work on the subject, but if I take on one more project right now I’ll probably drop everything I’m carefully balancing.  However, if you submit something to me now, I would like to know if when I get to the point of putting something together for the community if you’d like to be included.

And in this vein, I’m also looking for soothing pieces.  Pieces to help people transition to their next journey.  Gentle things.

But also prayers for the deceased once they have ceased to be fully in our world.

So can you help me?  Even just links to your favorite hymns?  And would you kindly pass this message on to those who may be able to help?

Thank you!

Embracing a Calling: Death Midwifery

In my early 20s, I received that profound moment that others describe where they receive their calling towards ministry – The calling where you find yourself suddenly at complete peace and going “Yes, I can do this. I can help people with their spiritual lives.” I had originally planned to become an Unitarian Universalist minister, but truth be told the thought of being in school for another 8 years of my life and going into extreme life-long debt only to be saddled down with society politics (because I’ve seen congregations explode in my time and out a minister at the turn of a hat) seemed to kind of a dead end to me.

Then I was told to go into agriculture. This is still on my list of things to do. The problem is that we’ve discovered that I am photosensitive. I have many of the symptoms of lupus, but we’re still searching for answers to if it really is lupus or something else. With that, I’m not sure exactly how large-scale I’m going to be able to work on a farm. Not that I wanted to have a huge farm, but I want to cultivate more than food for just my family – This is another topic altogether, so I won’t go into details right now.

With coming to terms with the fact that my plans are, at the very best, up in the air, the thought of ministry that I’ve been avoiding came back into play. Being a chaplain. This isn’t the first time the thought of being a chaplain to prisoners or in a hospice has entered my brain. It was where I left off when I decided I didn’t want to go back to college. I still don’t want to go back to what will end up being 8 years of college for me where I have to take a bunch of classes not directly related to what I want to do with my life.

I started looking at where I really wanted to be when it came to my role as a spiritual support role in our community. I found myself going back over and over again to those who our society turns a blind eye to quite often – The Dying.

Hekate started discussing her role as Torchbearer to me. I sank quietly into the Eleusinian Myth from a different perspective, and that was the role of Hekate – Bringing the mourning and tired mother into the underworld to find her daughter. Such a modest mention in the grander story, but one of the most important roles within the myth.

I started pondering becoming a death midwife/doula and home funeral assistant. I had no real concept that others were doing this work already. I had no clue at the time that there was literature and training available out there for death work. Slowly links and discussions started trickling in on me. Eventually I found a certifying program online that I felt was a good match for me along with a few classes.

I started talking to others about how I was considering walking into this line of work. Most of the conversations I’ve had have been incredibly positive and encouraging.

Then a friend from high school died last week. She didn’t die suddenly. I have watched her slowly die over a two year period on Facebook. She had gone through radiation and chemo for a brain tumor while pregnant. I cried when she had a severe allergic reaction to the chemo drugs and had to stop taking treatment. I cheered when her son was born healthy. We discussed head scarves in that time as her hair started to fall out. I prayed for her. I watched her come into faith with her God and find peace; she was truly graceful in a way I’ve never seen another human being. We were not close despite all of this. Yet something about her passing changed me in a profound way, watching the process from even an impersonal position 2 states away caused me to consider how we as a society view death and what that means to not only the Pagan/Polytheist community but those who feel the need for a different approach to death… Something warmer, kinder, and gentler for those crossing and those left behind.

I have full plans to offer my services on a sliding scale or at no cost to those in need, save for supplies that might need to be bought. Despite the Affordable Care Act, I fear that people dealing with large hospital and healthcare bills still exist, and while I would like to be compensated for this work I also feel it’s imperative that every person be given the dignity they deserve in the final days.

So here I am, putting out the word today that I’m going to attempt doing this. This is part of my Work. This is a piece of the puzzle of how I’m meant to serve our community. It’s not something I would have ever thought I’d find myself doing, but I also didn’t see myself going into farming either. Now I can’t imagine myself not having land to work with one day.

With all of this said, I’m asking for help with this. I could go into the long story about why I’m trying to raise the $700 it takes to get myself trained to a point where I’d feel comfortable starting to work, but the fact is that as much as I’d like to be able to pay for this out of my own pocket I’m unable to do that.

I’ve started a GoFundMe fundraiser in hopes of even getting the smallest amount raised to help me in this journey. I’m offering various levels of rewards from prints to custom art to prayer beads made of stone with hand-fabricated sterling silver filigree made by me. Even the smallest of donations will help me out. If you’re unable to donate, please consider sharing the link to get my story out there.

Thank you so much.