Note: a version of this story has appeared in the Introduction of DIVINA: a Dream and Divination Journal.
It was a hot August day at the Ferry County Fair, circa 1996 or 1997. Ferry County is Washington's least populated, and poorest, county. Nevertheless, the county's 7,000 residents had showed up in good form to visit the booths and watch the rodeo.
As a newly-minted high schooler, I was enjoying the initiation of being old enough and responsible enough to work not one, but two booths at the fair. Our class had a booth selling hamburgers every year, the money we earned went towards paying for our Senior Sneak. I was also a member of the Drill Team and that meant balancing the hamburger booth with the sno-cone booth. Of course, it also meant plenty of flirting with new boys and trying to make the old boys jealous. A new school year was just around the corner and who knew what the year was going to bring? Youth, excitement and the wonder of life was all around . . . at least for me.
One afternoon, I was getting off duty from one fair booth or the other when I saw an old friend across the way.
"Howard!" I exclaimed as I ran to give him a hug.
Howard and his late wife Jeannie were friends of my Grandmothers. They had a granddaughter about my age but she lived a few states away and they both had always enjoyed doting on me and my sisters. Jeannie had passed away a few years earlier from complications with Hepatitis C. She had taught me how to macrame and to this day I can't make a slipknot without thinking of her.
I threw my arms around Howard and instantly had a thought "He's going to visit his wife soon."
Oh what a silly thought. She died two years ago, I chided myself.
I chitchatted with Howard for a few minutes and then ran off to hang out with my friends.
That night, Howard had a heart attack and died.
I remembered the thought that slipped into my mind when I had hugged him.
He's going to visit his wife soon.
A few months later, I was leaving my grandparent's house and giving them hugs goodbye. I bent over to hug my Daddypa (grandpa) in his recliner and I paused in mid embrace. That voice was back.
This is the last time you are going to hug him.
My mom was/is the EMS chief and later that night I saw the ambulance leaving our house, lights flashing. I knew where they going.
Daddypa suffered 7 ruptured aneurysms that night. Amazingly, he survived and was conscious for several more days. However, he was bedridden and had so many tubes attached to him that I never was able to give him another hug.
When he passed away a few days later, I was not at his side but I was near his house. I let myself into the house and I could feel him there, as strong and as clear as if he were physically present. I knew he had come back to his house to say goodbye and I was grateful to have a few moments alone with him. He felt vibrant and strong and . . . excited.
These were my first initiations into the death current. The death current is really all around us, but it is amplified when someone is close to their physical death. The current is soft and warm, gentle and compassionate and its purpose is to help a soul move on and separate from it's physical body.
For the longest time, I thought I just had a funny quirk of sensing death.
Now I know that it isn't a quirk, it's a calling. A mandate. To help the dead and dying. To help them let go of their physical lives, to cross over when they're ready.
A few years after my Daddypa passed away, the family was gathered around his wife's deathbed, my Granny. Her time was near. I was only 19 at the time but my family nominated me to hold her hand and talk her through the process.
This still kind of baffles me. I was a kid. But the entire family collectively agreed that I was the one for the job. I don't say that to show how special I am (I'm not) but to point out that, in hindsight, this death work has always been a part of me, so that even my family could sense it.
It took 20 years, but I've officially owned up to my calling as a Psychopomp, a worker between worlds. But that doesn't mean the road ahead of me is going to be easy or all beautiful.
In fact, when I first started working with a mentor to officially learn Psychopomp work I. was. scared. stiff.
My mentor taught me how to open up an office for former humans looking to move on and to set firm boundaries and a waiting area . . . and then she told me to go in there and start talking to and helping these . . . ghosts. In my own house.
Part II coming tomorrow . . .
In love and darkness,
image via Etsy: Etruscan psychopomp mask