Supernatural Non-Fiction posted January 10, 2016


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I see dead people.

The Shaman

by Sis Cat


Her name meant heavenly or divine.
 
In 2012, a shaman responded to my stepmother’s call to visit my father’s hospice at his Albuquerque studio-home, to serve as his spirit walker. In Native American cultures, the spirit walker guides the souls of those transitioning from this world to the next. The walker also guides the grieving family through this process of releasing departed loved ones.
 
The woman's raven hair stretched half the length of her five-foot body. Crystals and animal amulets around her neck and fingers radiated power and protection. Her eyes . . . her eyes reflected the shell-shocked weariness of a soldier who has seen things no one should see.
 
Before my father’s voice faded to silence, he slurred his words when he said he saw lights sparkle at the foot of his hospice bed. I did not see those lights. The shaman diagnosed what he saw, “Those lights are Fred’s ancestral grandmothers going back in time to Africa. I see them. They surround his bed. I hear them. They whisper his name. I understand their languages. They tell him everything is going to be all right. They tell him to leave this world and join them in the next.”
 
I sheltered in my father’s empty bedroom, sorting his papers
away from the vigil gathered around his hospice bed in the living room. Among my father’s papers I found a poem he wrote titled “Flight Across Heaven’s Gate” about the flight of the soul upon the death of the body.
 
The shaman entered the bedroom and said, “Your father wants you to spend some time alone with him.”
           
I attempted telepathy with her. How do you know what my father wants? He can’t even speak. I took one look in the shaman’s eyes and I knew. I followed her.
 
She ushered grieving family and friends from the living room.
 
Where are you going? You’re leaving me alone with my father? You’re supposed to help me.
 
The shaman heard me but closed the French doors behind her.
 
I turned and faced the man lying on the hospice bed. I approached and stroked his bald head. His brown, wrinkled skin began to release the stress and strain of this life. I whispered his poem:
 
Whatever time is left in life,
each creative step of duty renders,
puts us close but not too late
in that flight across Heaven’s Gate.

 
I looked around his art and awards-decorated room from a sixty year career in ceramics. I studied the African faces in my father’s sculptures. I hoped to see the ancestral spirits the shaman saw, but I saw nothing but clay. I watched my father’s chest rise and fall, rise and fall. I feared his heart would stop beating during my watch.
 
#
 
The morning after my father passed, I walked behind the guest house to his pottery studio in search of answers. He kept art files in his studio. During the vigil, an elderly woman had called for an appraisal of “Flight Across Heaven’s Gate”–the mural. I knew of his poem “Flight Across Heaven’s Gate,” but he created a mural, too?
 
I opened the studio door and saw . . . thousands of migrating Miller moths fluttering around the room and battering the windows with their wings. Tshh! Tshh! Tshh!
 
I paused. Those moths were not here yesterday.
 
I crossed the moth storm to reach the file cabinets. I found photos, sketches, and receipts. I learned that in 1985 my father had sculpted a ceramic mural to accompany his poem “Flight Across Heaven’s Gate.” The clay and wood mural spanned five feet wide, eight feet tall, weighed a quarter ton, and depicted the freed human soul


Flight Across Heaven's Gate photo Flight Across Heavens Gate slide_zpsxcbow5m5.jpg

transformed into a magnificent white bird whose outstretched wings soared above the Southwest desert to Heaven. My father had hoped this mural would take him places as a ceramist, but it only went as far as New Jersey.
 
Moths battered the studio windows. Tshh! Tshh! Tshh!
 
I heard a noise behind me and jumped. My father’s widow had entered his studio. Alongside her stood the shaman. The woman held a white bowl of holy water. The widow apologized, “Andre, I’m sorry to disturb your research, but we need you to leave.”
 
Moths swirled around us and battered the windows. Tshh! Tshh! Tshh!
 
I took one look at the shaman’s eyes . . . and fled.
 
#
 
That evening during dinner and discussions about the date for Dad’s memorial service, the shaman ate next to me on the sofa. She stared ahead at her mental calendar. “Good. I’ll just be getting back from Sun Dance.”
 
Visions of Robert Redford and independent films danced in my head. I sat erect in hopes I would hear about the directors and stars of tomorrow. “Do you mean the Sundance Film Festival?”
 
She deadpanned. “No, the Lakota ritual for purifying the earth and the people.”
 
I slumped in my seat. How could I be so stupid to confuse Sun Dance with Sundance? I hoped I did not insult her.
 
She asked, “Do you have a partner?”
 
I arched my eyebrows—you, a shaman, should know this—but I answered, “Yes, my partner and I have been together for twenty years.”
 
She sighed. “I would love to meet someone, but it’s hard when you see dead people. Sometimes, I like the dead people better than the living, but other times, oh, they are not as nice.” She gritted her teeth and shook her head as she said “not as nice.”
 
I declined to ask about dead people. The shaman and I sat on the sofa and ate without further conversation. I averted her gaze for more than a second. Her eyes said everything and saw everything . . . and everyone, the living and the dead. I saw a woman alone because of her “gift."  
 
#
 
On the morning of my departure from Albuquerque, I visited my father’s studio to pack more of his papers into my bag. I opened the door and saw . . . nothing. The moth swarm that had battered the windows the day before had . . . vanished. What did the shaman do with that bowl of water? I shifted a newspaper on the table. A single moth fluttered to the air and flew off.                
 
THE END?

 


Recognized


Under the title "The Psychic", "The Shaman" first appeared as a true story I told audiences around the San Francisco Bay Area in 2013. Here is the video of one of my performances:

The feature photo shows a Miller moth. Thousands swarmed my father's studio after he died. In some cultures, moths and butterflies represent the souls of the deceased reluctant to transition to the next world. After the shaman performed her cleansing ritual, the moths departed. I thank FanStory writer foreverbutterfly whose series of butterfly-as-messenger-for-the-dead stories inspired me to post my encounter with this phenomenon.

Another photo shows Fred Robert Wilson's mural "Flight Across Heaven's Gate" under construction. A group of men had raised the quarter ton mural and set it against an easel for a picture. The wooden brackets and backing were still in place. Once they photographed the mural, the men lowered it to the work table for Wilson to paint details. My discovery of his poem and the existence of his mural as he lay dying launched my investigation which resulted in my "Poetry and Poison" biography.

Flight Across Heaven's Gate (closeup) photo Flight Across Heavens Gate mural closeup_zpsypp5wn0g.jpg


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