Graceful Exits 2
Part 2: The Chrysalis and Evolution after Death
I began writing this post before the Supreme Court decisions were announced. Trust me when I say I will be writing on collective matters extensively over the summer, in order to provide navigation guidance to Agents of Evolution. In the meantime, please indulge me one last time this season on another significant matter: navigating our own death. As always, your responses are warmly welcome – please consider responding publicly on Substack so others can benefit from your insights.
Spirit speaks to us in ways we can relate to and understand, in ways that are familiar. This is compassion.
I had gone blueberry picking on a sunny Sunday afternoon with friends and just as we were about to leave I spotted a butterfly on the car side-view mirror. I put my finger up to it and it crawled right onto my hand, staying with me for a long time. My whole body tingled with this tiny butterfly dancing on my hands and wrists. Its tiny little footsteps felt like eyelashes brushing against my skin.
I had been doing ritual and prayer over the weeks after my mother’s passing, tending to the process I sensed her soul was engaged in. The visit from the this beautiful creature signaled to me that the chrysalis she had been in had produced a butterfly…
Though many of the worlds great religions and spiritual traditions have a lot to say about what happens beyond the death of the body, there is no way to verify any of their assertions with the logical, rational mind. Yet reports from the dying, and our own softer sensing and lived experience of this mystery can reliably guide us in this realm, if we are willing to listen.
The field of hospice offers its observations here: It is a common experience for people across all faiths to receive visits from the ancestors as a person is dying. From hospice reports, at death we are often greeted by the people we loved in this life that have gone before us – our family, our spiritual forebears – to help us make that transition.
Dr. Daniel Foor, psychologist, animist, ritualist, and author of the book Ancestral Medicine: Rituals for Personal and Family Healing, explains the process after the death of the body where the soul is received by the ancestors for continued evolution beyond this life.
Many traditions speak of a “judgment” or a reckoning that happens after death, but I appreciate the way Dr. Foor re-contextualizes this reckoning as “a gift” of transformation, of all the choices in life where we did not choose from Love:
The elders who hold up reality love you so much that they wish to directly help you to understand the implications of your actions. That is a way of keeping you woven in and saying “we didn’t abandon you. We care about your development. We know you do too, on some levels. We're going to help you with it.” When you've learned some things that perhaps you avoided [in life], then you have a different experience. That's what people talk about as a life review or process of purification, if you will.
Something compassionately assists us after our soul sheds the body. Since Spirit exercises compassion by speaking to us in ways we can relate to during life (Spirit knew I would relate to a butterfly!) it also rings true to me that Spirit’s compassion continues similarly after death, appearing in order to guide us as a dear ancestor, or a religious figure we were devoted to, or a beloved spiritual teacher.
Assuming sentience never leaves, we can’t but continue to transform after death. (Dropping the body is a big shift so how could we not continue to transform.) Until we absolutely, beyond a shadow of a doubt, know ourselves to be Spirit itself, consciousness itself, that essence of who we are compassionately leads us onward, in ways we can relate to.
Becoming familiar with the process of evolution during life helps a soul navigate the moment of death and the process after death.
The takeaway: Our evolution continues after death. We can’t get this life wrong. There is always compassionate support for waking up to Love, at every level of this human life and beyond.