In this short but sweet solo episode, I introduce the topic of Season 2, Befriending Death. I share stories about my own spiritual and emotional history with death and connecting with the dead, plus the transformation of death as hidden and shameful topic to something full of love and humor. (Trigger Warning: Death stories plus a death joke.)
Transcripts of all That Good May Become episodes are coming soon! Thanks for tuning in.
More on Linda Bergh and Marianne Dietzel here.
Hey everyone, I'm Laura Scappaticci g, the host of that good may become a new podcast that explores and reveals spiritual experiences in our everyday lives. This is season number two, and I'm so glad you're joining me. I started this podcast to disrupt the forces of materialism that are disrupting our humanity. And I hope you'll join me and exploring your own spiritual biography, and your understanding of what spirituality means and what materialism is in the world today. The topic that I'm taking on next is one that's rooted very deeply in materialism at this point in our culture and wasn't before. I hope you enjoy this solo episode, just me for about 25 minutes, telling you some stories, and looking forward to the entire season. And thank you again for tuning in. And please follow the podcast, like it, rate it, share it, and that makes it get out into the world so other people can become part of this discourse about this other piece of our existence. Thanks for tuning in. Welcome to that good may become with me, Laura Scappaticci cheese, where we learn to illuminate the esoteric and our everyday lives is a fearful thing to love what death can touch, a fearful thing to love, to hope to dream, to be to b and oh to lose a thing for fools this and a holy thing. A holy thing to love for your life has lived in me. Your laugh once lifted me your word was gift to me to remember this brings painful joy to the human thing love a holy thing to love what death has touched. Okay, everybody. Don't freak out. This season is about death. That's right. Okay, I'm not making jokes about death. I'm just here to talk about it. Because, um, guess what? Well Need I say more that we're gonna have a bunch of different guests on this season talking about different aspects of death and dying. Some about like the very practical pieces like home funerals, some about staying connected to the dead. And I thought I would just start out with a solo episode, which I've never done. But I think I have a lot to say on this topic, because my guests always share a little bit of their spiritual biography that I tell you a little bit about my spiritual biography with death. My mom, her mom died when she was 10. And her older brother died, I think he was about 16. And in my family, people have attempted to take their own lives and have also attempted to take the lives of others. So how close can you get to death that is pretty close without actually dying. So death is filled with experiences of humor and fear in my house and also shame it was really kept away from me hidden as a mystery. And as something to be protected from which, yeah, that makes sense. But it's actually something that's unavoidable. So I remember when I was about, I was a teenager, there was a woman that took care of me and she was called My granny, granny Mary. And whenever she was upset with people, she would say this really funny saying she would say, they can go to grass to like talk about the neighbor. She'd be like, old him which over there, he can go into grass, which I think is just a euphemism for dying. So when her husband my Pappy died as an older man, I didn't go to the funeral. My mom didn't want me to go to the funeral even though I was a teenager. And I remember being at my Granny's house and her like white white hair and her kitchen apron on and just standing there in this house that I had done a lot of my youngest years growing up in and you know, how did very distinct smell and this wooden kitchen table and she always had cookies in a jar and like tea that she was making? And she was standing there and she said, Why didn't you come to the funeral? And she had these really like pleading earnest eyes just asking me and I remember I felt this sense of being a bit closed up right then. And I was like, well, I wanted to remember him living not dead. I have a different take on this now. though. I think That's true. And that is also a way to deal with death. I have a new understanding of that now. So my mother was trying to protect me. And I think that's because her mom died when she was so young. And she told me this story when her mother died, she was this is an incredible story. It was New Year's Eve, she was 47 years old, and she was pregnant. And my aunt, the eldest child in the family was also pregnant. She was 19. So there's a 19 year old pregnant and her mother at 47 is pregnant, and her mother goes into the hospital and my grandmother, Laura, Abigail goes into the hospital. And you know, the doctors are not really around. And I think it's about 1953. And she dies, she hemorrhages and she dies in childbirth, and the baby dies, too. And her name, I believe, was Melissa. And they named her and so there's a funeral and you're in my mom is 10. And she has to she told me in, like, astonishment, and definitely I could feel almost like horror, that she had to walk up to the casket and kiss her mother, and kiss the baby, who was I think, in her mother's arms and walk away from that, and just remembering the horror of it, and how difficult that was for her. So she was traumatized by that experience, and didn't want us to have an experience like that. So my father is Syrian, I remember her trying to protect us from Syrian funerals too. So all my Syrian relatives, listening, I love your tradition. And the most recent Syrian funeral I was at was my uncle. First of all, I was definitely because I'm half Syrian halfsies. It was like, I knew I didn't quite fit in because I didn't grow up in the culture in the same way. I mean, I did grow up in the culture, but not in the same way as if both my parents were from Syria and spoke Arabic in the house. So anyway, I showed up at a gathering where people were sharing food and there was everyone had come black on there was not a stitch of any other color in the room. It was amazing. I had never seen anything like it. Like every single note not gray, nothing every he couldn't have like a white shirt under no, everything was completely black down to the all the details. And at the funeral, my dad and his, you know, siblings with the one up to the casket and wailing and crying at the casket and just showing their pain, and just saying why why are you gone? Where are you gonna end up showing that love for the person for the body, the person in the casket. And so that was a very different experience. And my mom sort of disdain that. But again, I think this comes all from fear and this shame about that. In some of the culture in this country, there is this shame, and there's a hiding away from it. But what I found is that people want to talk about death. And I guess I'll just say a little bit more that my first real experience with death came. Well, let me back it up. I never still I still never really thought about death until I got older. And one day I was in college, and I did think of death then I my thought was if my mom dies, because she was really just so supportive, and I'd be like struggling and college, got my own apartment, and I was lonely. This person broke up with me, I was so sad. And you know, she was just helping me do like mind maps and all kinds of stuff to figure out if I was going to go to grad school, like just so amazingly supportive. Thank you, Mary Beth. And I thought if my mom dies, I'll die. Like I'm not going to be able to live and five years later she did she died. And that is the first person that died in my life that I was close to the first person was the closest person and that was my mother. And it was a difficult dying she was sick for a couple years with cancer. Even now like I'm talking about it can feel like just you know, people used to go cancer like that. I still feel like that I think because of the trauma with her being sick and I was really one of the main people there with my gal and my stepdad that was there too. But he was working I kind of detached from it in some ways. And so we just watched her decline. I someone gave me a book. It was a beautiful novel. I wish I could figure out what it was I don't know at this point, but it was about a mother that got sick and she died in the home and she passed away like looking out the window. So isn't this like the perfect way to die right like you just grow while she wasn't old in the book, which that's not the best way to go. That's old would be good, not young, but she was looking out the window and she faded away, she passed away and everybody was kind of ready. And like this book was like a preparation novel, like it was like, here's how it can look if you want it to. So my mom did die at home, which was nice in some ways for some people, but I'm sure some of you are like, Hell no, that's not what I want. But that is what happens. And I remember when the ambulance came and took her away, I felt all wrong to me. So we all went into the room where she had died before the ambulance came, and my brother was there my ankle, and we're like looking at the body. I can't even believe I'm going to tell you what we said. So my mom always wore lipstick. And she loved her lipstick. She always put it on before she got out the car everywhere. She She usually had her nails like nicely done by herself. She didn't go to any place to get them done. So my aunt girl comes into the room and she looks at her and she's like, she needs lipstick. And then she says, Well, we might as well use Sharpie now. Yeah, that's the kind of dark humor I'm talking about. So even though it was hidden, I think we had this sense that, you know, what can we do here it was, it was right in front of us. She had suffered for so long, and had been on a lot of painkillers, all through the end, too. And so we made a joke. And if you listen to my brother's podcast against everyone with Connor Habib, you will know that that that brother of mine has a darker sense of humor, and can laugh at pretty much anything or make a joke about anything. But even though I had that experience, I was still really unable to talk about or understand death. And in fact, while my mom was sick and dying, when I went for a walk, I can remember I went for a walk with my friend Marcel. She's just like the sweetest yoga teacher kind of person. And she was sort of like asking me, like, how am I doing? And this is why my mom is sick. And I would just say, Well, tell me about that yoga class. Again, I could not even like so we did, like, you know, maybe, I don't know, three loops around this huge Park and Pennsylvania. And I could not bring myself to talk about it. Also, while I was in it, I couldn't talk about it. And before it happened, I was afraid. And, you know, it's like, hidden to me. And then after, I was super afraid, so here's what happened. I start working for the anthroposophical Society in America, which is a an organization that offers people education, and membership and community around spirituality, and in particular, anthroposophy. I get there, and they're like, oh, there is someone that gifted some money to this society to do a conference on death and dying. And I was like, This is not. Are you kidding me? Okay, so I start to and I'd had this experience before, like, while my mom was sick, I was seeing a therapist, and I was like, in a group of women, and I started talking about it. And I started to shake and get really cold. And like, they had to put a blanket around me. So obviously, there's like some trauma there. Right? So I'm, I'm starting to, like get cold as they're telling me this. And then I get into the planning committees with like, the most amazing women to have had lost children. They lost their girls together in a car accident. And they had done all this incredible. I mean, how do you heal from that, and they didn't, they didn't just heal themselves, they've healed so many other people through their stories. Their names are Linda Burke and Marianne dettol. Make sure to put some of the resources in the show notes in these committees, and then they're like, well, maybe we can. Or maybe this was even my idea of why we can like do on Thursday, we can do a film screening about death and dying, because there are lots of great films on death and dying. So I'm like, okay, they're like, Well, why don't you watch it just to you know, check it out, and make sure and I'm like, Oh, my God, I have to be the one to watch a movie on death and dying. Like, I just want to watch Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Like that's enough death and dying for me. I can get behind vampire death, but really not real death. So I start watching this movie produced by Heidi vishay. And she has and you'll hear her later in the season talking about home funerals and the amazing experience and movies called in the parlor. And I start to get through it. And this new framework of connecting to the dead starts to emerge for me. So during this whole time between when my mom dies, and the conference planning is about, it's a long time, let's see 2001 and I start planning this conference in like, What 2017? Okay, 16 years, and I still have this complete, like trauma response to death. Yeah, that's Wow, I'm reflecting on how long that is right now. That's a long time. I hope this podcast season can help you if you're in that long of an unhealed time with trauma around dad. So it's a new picture starts to emerge. And they just start telling me how they read to their daughters are on certainties. And actually, while we were planning like someone would someone's friend on, the planning committee passed away, and they brought their name into the group, and they said their name, and they talked about them a little bit, and it just changed my understanding of death. So say the person's name, start to talk about them and have a memory light a candle on your table. And now that's what we do. That's our tradition in our house. When someone we know passes away, we light a candle and we share some memories about them, or we'll eat their favorite food or something like that. So I start getting this new framework that it's unavoidable, I started having all this health anxiety about death. After my mom died, it starts to starts to shift and change. And I'm like, okay, death is a part of life. And here, maybe, maybe there's something that comes after. And there's a way to connect, then I start to have dreams about my mom. And in one of the dreams, she's just like, in an oil painting, and she's just standing there and or she's maybe like, on like reclining on a chest lounge or something like that. She's like reclining, and she's just like, once people to look at her and see her. And I start to understand maybe this is what death is about. Maybe this is what we can do for those that have died. And of course, we've had a really crazy year and a half with death coming into the forefront, and you know, getting like daily death tolls. And I talk about this with the next guests that you'll hear Joe Lee Luba, our consciousness about death and connecting with those that have died has has shifted this year, I think in a, in a pretty incredible way. I think connection is possible. And I think what I mean by connection is connection with those that have crossed the threshold, which is one of the terms I like to use when describing what happens in death. So you go from this threshold to the next just as you would when you're meditating, you're, you go into a different space, you cross a threshold, and there are thresholds all over the place, but death is definitely one of them. There's also possible to be connected with death yourself and understand it and have a working relationship with it instead of having it be hidden and fearful and shameful. And something that is put away and ignored or misunderstood. Or I think I'll just say that different religions and different spiritual philosophies have different pictures of what death is, you know, when I was young, it was about heaven, right? Which was, I think, hard for me to quite understand, but certainly felt safer. And now reincarnation, you know, when I first heard about it, it's like sort of the sexy concept reincarnation. Oh, yeah. So it was, you know, Cleopatra, right? But it's like, no, there's, there's definitely I have a definitely have an expanded understanding of what that means if a person connects with that, as a possibility. So that's another possible outcome. And then of course, it's like, you know, you die. And that's it. And I think Mary Oliver, who actually wrote a lot about that was sort of like, not just kind over. So live now. There's nothing, nothing past there, which really surprised me about her because of my gosh, I quote, a spiritual poet. So my new framework now is to honor the dead. That's that's part of it. And to have a conception that I can connect with the dead. So honor, honor the dead by saying people's names, asking questions, lighting candles, doing something that was meaningful to them, and staying connected to them like breathing, Emily Dickinson for my mom, for example, or offering her some sort of, you know, the dead. If you feel they're there, they can't have the sensory experiences we do. So why not enjoy the sensory things for them and share with them like, I'm eating this peach. I'm thinking of you. I know you love peach pie. So whenever I make pie, I think of my mother and how she used to make the most incredible strawberry rhubarb actually is my favorite pie. And when people lose people to just show up and be there and be present, and I actually took my kids to home funeral A few years ago, I'm so grateful that this community member had a home funeral and we were able to go and her husband had passed away and my children were able to walk up to the body and just see what what death is like what it's like when there's no enlivening essence in the body anymore. So I was very grateful for that experience. Because I want to make sure that my children don't have shame or fear in the ways that I did. And of course, there's always pain and there's grief. And I'm going to read you a little quote about grief right now, from Elisabeth Kubler Ross, who most people know about. The reality is that you will grieve forever, you will not get over the loss of a loved one, you will learn to live with them, you will heal and you will rebuild yourself around the loss you have suffered. You will be whole again, but you will never be the same. nor should you be the same, nor would you want to. And so I'd leave you that that quote then thank you for listening to this first solo episode, and you can jump over to my website, Laura Scappaticci g calm, and my contact information is there. I'm hoping to have a place up where you can record little videos and tell me about your spiritual biography and it could be any experiences related to death as well that you'd like to share.