The End and The Beginning

Everything ends. Some endings are welcome, and some break your heart. When this happens, time stands still. Nothing exists beyond the travesty, the tragedy. You’re stuck in the awful present of it. The ending is all there is.

I was in Pennsylvania and New York last week. In beautiful Valley Forge, I attended a funeral. And in New York, where I visited my daughter, I was surrounded by people in another kind of grief. You all know what I’m talking about. And I was in the immediacy of all of it. We were all in the shocking, stunning aftermaths of endings, temporarily hidden from the future by the curtain of…finality.

And still. One could not entirely ignore the beauty of autumn, because it was everywhere. Color was still in the trees, the leaves rustled underfoot, and the sky…oh, the sky…was so very, very blue. I’ve always hated November. For me, it has always signaled the end of warmth and sunlight. I do not thrive in winter, or in dark days. But those days in Valley Forge and New York were summer-like, warm and sunshiny, as if Nature was intent on defying the inevitable. It was the end of autumn, but oh, so beautiful–like the life of the dear soul who passed away, like the era of dignity, hope, and promise that will soon be but a memory in our country. We grieved in the face of beauty. We could not ignore one and we could not ignore the other, because unarguably, they were both present.  I believe that in this duality is the love of a Benevolent Force that would not leave us in an end without a trace of beauty, and without a beginning.

What I have observed in my relatively long life is that an end that breaks our hearts or takes everything from us, is the one thing that, above all others, has the power to awaken us to a new, heightened sense of the goodness of life, to a sunlight of the spirit. To a recognition of Spirit within us and around us. I have seen it happen many, many times. It has happened to me, more than once. The death of my son was the beginning of my spiritual life. As it was his. The death of my husband deepened that spiritual life, as did the deaths of my parents. The nearness of my own death gave me the health of body and spirit I have in such abundance today. These were my endings and my beginnings. Never was there one without the other.

I went to a funeral. But what I saw there was love. My friend, as I did seven years ago, honored and celebrated with family and friends the beautiful life of the husband who loved her. I hugged and was hugged by dear friends I had not seen for a long time. I heard music of incomparable beauty, sung in Japanese. And outside was the golden autumn.  In the next days, I spent hours talking to my daughter as we tried to come to grips with what was ending in our country. Every friend of hers we met on the street stopped for an embrace. We sat in a sunlit café and talked with more friends, all of us processing our grief, our end. Outside was the golden autumn. And inside our hearts and minds, a space began to grow, making room for another beginning.


Read The Messenger: The Improbable Story of a Grieving Mother and a Spirit Guide by Helen Delaney. Find it at or

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Death Is Not What It Used To Be


Life happens. Death happens. No matter what I think, no matter how much I try to control it, these things happen. I have learned that what is as important as what is happening is my perception of it. I had achieved some measure of this when my father died.

Following are excerpts from my book, The Messenger:

I am sitting before him [Reverend Brown, the gifted medium] once again. “I don’t usually say this to people,” he says, “but Spirit wants me to tell you this. I see a circle of American Indians. They are dancing, rejoicing, getting ready to welcome your father into spirit.”

I am not surprised. After surviving cancer and three heart attacks, my father, who is almost ninety, has had a massive stroke. I dread the visit to the hospital. What will I say to him? He can no longer talk. My father makes it easy. He looks at me and smiles. I know that smile.


It is Christmastime. He comes in from the cold and sits down at the kitchen table, still in his policeman’s uniform. My mother gives him a steaming cup of coffee. I push my chair as close to him as I can get, waiting for the story. He always has a story, and while my mother is cooking dinner, I’ve got him all to myself.

“Guess who I saw today?” he says.


“Santa Claus.”

“Oooh…” I say. I know that Santa Claus is in the department store on Market Street, where Daddy works.

“He told me something.”

“What?” I am breathless. And then he smiles that I-know-a-secret smile.

“What did he say?” 

“He says he knows who you are.”

“He knows who I am?” I am practically screeching.

“Shhh, ” he says. “Don’t tell anybody.”

“Okay,” I whisper, so excited I can’t sit still.

“He told me he was going to bring you that thing you really want for Christmas.”

I can still feel the world light up, as it did that moment, when Daddy and I shared the best secret in the world: I was going to get the doll with the real hair.


He is almost ninety years old, and cannot move or speak. He looks up at the ceiling. His eyes are following something. He looks over at me, looks at it again, and looks at me. I look up.

“I can’t see it, Daddy,” I say.

His eyes are merry and shining. And then, he smiles the smile at me. It’s our last wonderful secret: Someone, or something from spirit is here.

“I know, Daddy,” I say to him. ” I just can’t see it.”

The next day when I visit, the nurses have just finished bathing him and are adjusting his pillow, trying to make him comfortable. I talk to him, try to get his attention, but for the first time in my life, my father is not interested in me. He has gone away somewhere. He dies the next day while I’m at work.


…My father’s pastor gives an affectionate, funny eulogy, and later, the family gathers at my house. It’s been a long day. I see to the guests, thank everybody for coming, and later, when my mother is resting and Bill and I are washing the dishes, I remember my last visit to Reverend Brown. “I see a circle of American Indians,” he had said. “They are dancing, rejoicing, getting ready to welcome your father into spirit.” In the hectic, exhausting months of dealing with my mother’s Alzheimer’s and my father’s stroke, I hadn’t thought much about Reverend Brown’s words. But now, it comes to me: My father’s father was Native American.

That night, I go to sleep thinking of my father in his hospital bed, smiling. looking at a circle of dancers, led by his father. There is no need to cry. Death is not what it used to be.

Happy Father’s Day, Daddy.


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Look for The Messenger: The Improbable Story of a Grieving Mother and a Spirit Guide by Helen Delaney on