by Shari Rhodes

Sometimes life pushes us hard. We don’t understand why and yet we must endure. We are never sure what is around the corner. Unexpected crisis occur when we least expect it. Most of us want to feel at the wheel of our path and feel in control. Sometimes life goes our way and sometimes it doesn’t. When we lose a loved one, we are challenged at our core to tap into our inner strength and somehow get through. Bereavement offers the opportunity of key learning for soul growth. Even in the deepest grief, there are many gifts of reflection, insight and healing.

When I received the phone call from my father that my mother had terminal lung cancer, my life stopped. Nothing else seemed important. Everyday concerns became irrelevant. My mind was consumed with questions like how could this have happened? My mother was so well? How could the cancer have spread throughout her body so fast? How could she have a prognosis of only one month to live? Why her when my father was the one with the heart condition and limited life expectancy? How could I not have known? With both my grandmothers living to almost a hundred, everyone in my family expected my mother to finally break the record. Her health had been nearly perfect for 76 years.

But the story changed and I was flying home to America. I hadn’t been back from New Zealand for six years, so I didn’t know what to expect when I returned. In the week of my preparation to return, my mother had a short round of chemotherapy and she became severely weakened to the point that she could no longer walk, eat or do even her basic health care. She developed a staph infection and sepsis that spread alongside the cancer into most of her vital organs. When I finally arrived at the hospital, she was hooked up to several IV lines and had a breathing tube down her throat. She couldn’t talk, pee or turn. Her organs were filling with fluid and her liver and kidneys were shutting down. Time was the essence. I stood by her bed and looked into her eyes. She kept lifting her arm up and down to somehow let her daughters know she was still lucid. Most patients require a sedative to handle the breathing tube because it can be uncomfortable and even claustrophobic. But my mother insisted on remaining clear headed to be fully present for her family. During those critical few hours, I held her hand and stayed present. Though my mother couldn’t speak, I sensed she could feel I was there. My sister and I rushed to get pictures copied of my new home in New Zealand to show my mother. However when we returned from the pharmacy, my mother went into septic shock. Her eyes turned yellow and glazed over. Her fingers and toes were beginning to turn purple and her body was becoming more swollen and bruised from her kidneys and liver not filtering the toxins from her body. The cancer in her cells was racing like wild fire. Her oncologist said he had never seen such an aggressive cancer.

We stayed with her overnight, watching and waiting. We knew life support was keeping her alive. But the deterioration was so rapid. It was hard on my father to make these critical choices with new ones presenting every hour. With over 57 years of marriage, my dad was losing his beloved wife in a matter of 2 weeks from the time of diagnosis. We were all in shock trying to digest what was happening.

I could sense my mother standing just behind her frail body. I felt her presence, her aliveness. She was watching over us as we kept silent vigil by her bed. Just before her passing, my dad placed his hand on her heart whispering how much he loved her and that it was safe for her to let go. I held her hand and prayed for her peaceful and painless release. My sisters said their own prayers offering love and support. The atmosphere of the hospital room felt sacred and so quiet. The heart monitor seemed to chant to the imminence of her passing as her pulse and blood pressure began to rapidly decline. We stared at the monitor and then back at my mother. The nurses and doctors stood back and silently watched over the process of her dying knowing there was nothing more they could do. Time stood still with my mother’s last breaths fading gently. My family circled around the bed in a final loving embrace. Within minutes, my mother’s breathing just stopped, right under my father’s hand. There was no pain, resistance or fear. The doctors were expecting cardiac arrest, agitation and discomfort. But there was none. My mother simply let go and she was gone.

At that moment, I felt the lines of permeability between dimensions. I could feel my mother as tangibly as I could with her alive. She was still with us from the other side of the veil. I was struck by her awesome courage and strength. From the beginning of her diagnosis to her death, my mother was never afraid of her fate. She simply accepted that this was her course. For the first time in my life, my sisters and I witnessed the power and beauty of her soul, her fierce determination to make connection before her passing, to show us her strength, and to let us know she loved us the best she could.

Though my childhood journey wasn’t the easiest and sometimes fraught with criticism, misunderstanding and conflict, at the final moment I finally understood that through the tough times and the good times, she was my mother. The only mother in this life and she did the very best she could to love me. That I am who I am because of our journey together. Even through the conflict, I grew stronger within myself by going deeper to discover my own hard won truths. I learned to stand for my own heart.

Right before her diagnosis, my mother sent me a huge number of Christmas gifts. She made me a scrapbook of pictures of herself and wrote messages about how much she loved me and was thinking about me out here in New Zealand. When I look back now, I sense that on some level she was preparing for her transition, that somehow through her tiredness, she knew something wasn’t quite right and maybe she didn’t have much time. It was like she was getting her affairs in order to make her family right.

After I arrived in San Francisco driving toward the hospital, I received news that my mother was on the rapid decline and she only had hours remaining. Within minutes, I saw an enormous multicolored rainbow in the sky with a smaller rainbow behind it. It was so bright, the colors seemed like they were bursting from the sky. A sense of peace engulfed me. I sensed everything was going to be ok. My mother was being looked after and she would transition in peace. I knew she was not alone.

My father also noticed two days before her death the brightest sun he had ever seen. It was like the sun was closer than usual. He felt it was meant just for him. He felt comforted and reassured that my mother was being looked after. After my mother’s passing, my dad could sense her presence in the house. He smelled her fragrance in the bedroom and noticed fleeting silhouettes in the corner of the room. Sometimes he would feel a slight indentation and heat from her side of the bed. He felt comforted by the sight of her things in the house and the feeling of her presence.

Death teaches us about the precariousness and preciousness of life. We learn to appreciate the moment and be fully present, that anything can happen and it certainly does. Loosing a loved one presents the opportunity for deep growth and self-reflection. It enables us to examine what our true values are and what is most important. It puts things in perspective. It is easy to get caught up in survival issues and the mundane responsibilities of everyday life. Especially in these challenging economic times, it’s easy to get consumed by how the bills are going to get paid and the kids fed. However when an illness strikes or a death occurs, for a fleeting moment, life stands still shocking us back into lucidity. We are given the chance to focus away from ourselves and to think about others. We get the chance to be more compassionate, listen more attentively and to share from the heart. It gives us the opportunity to connect and really be present; knowing that these moments shared might be the last. It enables us the chance to speak our truth, to say, “I love you” and to express those hidden parts of ourselves. We get the chance to complete with that person, the clean up unfinished business and to put the old story down. Whether it’s old resentments, regrets or not feeling loved or acknowledged, we can express how much we care.

Witnessing my mother dying seemed to have lifted the tension of my family not always feeling close or able to communicate. Suddenly after so many years living separate lives, my family came together and experienced a closeness not felt before. We became a family, a solid unit, and a strong force of love. Our hearts opened to each other and we expressed our deepest feelings. It was as it was meant to be. My mother’s death enabled a deepening of connection and a healing of old wounds. My heart felt lighter. I felt free to finally be me. I know now that I am the person I am because of the connection with my mother, the positive and the negative. Reflecting back, I wouldn’t change a thing. I am a stronger person for the lessons learned.

Though I miss my mother on the physical plane, I know her presence will live inside my heart. I know she is in a good place, probably hanging out with her mom and grandmother, who passed before her, and having a ”grand ole time”. I will be forever grateful for my mother’s gift and her enormous courage in the end. I saw the shining light of her spirit and knew she lived a good life in a deeply committed marriage. She spent years nurturing my father through his health challenges. In the midst of grieving her loss, something changed within me. My mother’s death gifted me the opportunity to grow, reconcile the past and become a better person.


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Shari Rhodes has been an international Intuitive Reader for the past 30 years. She is currently a citizen of both the United States and New Zealand. Shari’s purpose is to support people to grow and move forward in a positive direction with greater clarity, self-empowerment and self-confidence. She offers readings, workshops and public talks. She is available for sessions in person or over the phone at (027) 6295469 You can email Shari at, or visit her website at