Aztec Death Mask

Death comes to us all, the saying goes, but how many of us really think about that as we go about our daily lives?

I have had death touch my life many times – through friends and relatives,  children of friends, and pets.  Death has come to each in various ways.

I also watched the multiple deaths and revivals my teenage son suffered after the accident that left him permanently disabled, and lived through a few of my own near death experiences from heart problems, extreme asthma and bronchitis, and surgery that went badly.

You’d think I should have a ‘handle’ on death by now, but I lost a beloved aunt to cancer recently and once again it has confronted me.

I realized that the confrontation came because we were estranged.  I have not seen her for twenty years or more.  She stopped wanting to have anything to do with me because of gossip in my family, and I waited years for her to change her mind.

She never did.  So I moved on with my life without her in it.

There was nothing that could have been done to change that scenario.  I feel that if people are determined to cut you out of their lives, even after they are aware of your truths, then they just don’t want you there, so it’s pointless to waste energy persuading them differently.

That knowledge didn’t stop me feeling sad at the ‘loss,’  which is an odd thing to say because in reality I lost her long ago.

My spiritual modes believe in reincarnation.  I believe in life before and after death, in spirit being the driver of the human body avatar, and in immortality in divine form.  So I can realign the loss to my philosophies and tenets and move through it, but that does not actually stop the pain that happens in the heart.

Grief comes to us all, because grief is not about death or dying, it is about loss.  If we value what is lost, we miss it, and we can grieve for it.

For me, this loss is not so much the presence of my aunt in my life, but the wistful hope that one day things might be better between us.  I am now confronted by the knowledge that things can never be better now, that her human body is vacated and that her spirit will not return in that form in this lifetime.

Reincarnation does not deal well with grief.  Grief is relevant only to this world, and the here and now, not to the cycles of life in the cosmos.  My aunt’s body is dead and gone.  Reincarnation is not bringing her back to me in this lifetime, even if I meet her in another.

It doesn’t matter how enlightened you are, or what you do or do not believe in, loss is always difficult to deal with.  Realignment comes later.  The heart needs to sing its dirge first.

I have long promoted acceptance of death as being part and parcel of life.  I have long felt that all people should think of death well before it happens, so that they do all they wanted to do before it comes.  Yet life does not always afford us the opportunities for closure.  Many times, we simply have to move on with the heartache and pain until it eventually dissipates.

In the days of yore, when death was a far more common threat to existence through wars and pestilence, and people rarely lived long enough to develop wrinkles, it was accepted as part of the natural fragility of life.

Those people did not have science, technology, and medical miracles to give them hope that life could be repaired or extended.

It is only because these things exist in our society that we feel such shock when those around us die, because we have been led to believe that it is possible to live at least into our seventies, or even to a hundred.

Yet, in the not so long ago Victorian era, women rarely lived past the age of thirty – and while the media today is full of hope that we can all live for decades longer than our forebears, most people do not.  Death in what we consider old age is still a rarity.

In medieval churches, scenes of death were painted on walls and ceilings, so that people could never forget the possibility, and would learn to cherish each day and not waste a moment.

In many spiritual faiths, death is honored with skulls representing the ancestors, their knowledge, experience, and wisdom, reminding us all that while the body is fragile, the mind and spirit live on.

As a pagan, I also honor the ancestors in the Feast of the Dead, for Samhain or Halloween, each year.  It helps me align to the knowledge that death is part of life, yet is not the end of life – that the body is only one phase in the existence of spirit.

That knowledge does not stop me crying when I speak during the ritual of my deceased.  Grief is present wherever there is focus on what we have lost.

I had a wonderful friend and mentor who lived into his nineties, and seemed as though he would live forever – but he didn’t.  His favorite saying was that he would live till ‘tempis fugit‘ – till ‘time flies‘.  I suppose that sums it up.  We live in human form until our ‘time runs out.‘  Then we reawaken in another dimension.

My aunt lived to the ‘ripe’ age of seventy four.  If you are a young person, you might say she ‘had a good innings’ and ‘lived to a fine age‘ – but if you are older, like me, you may think that she had ‘many good years still left in her’, and feel shocked that someone who is not too much older than yourself has been ‘kicked off the planet.’

What the knowledge of my aunt’s death did for me was to bring a confrontation with the fact that I was still placing some parts of my life ‘on hold’ waiting for changes to occur, that time and circumstance have shown are unlikely to ever occur.  This is not just in the situation with my aunt, but also with others who were far closer to me.

Finally, I am able to put aside those notions and to get on with living my life.

Not that I wasn’t already living my life, but quite often when I was thinking I was doing that, I actually wasn’t.

For instance, as I was working, thoughts kept popping into my head about the people missing from my intimate circles, and those thoughts led to feelings of frustration and pain – never reconciled.

You can realign yourself from such modes, but it takes effort, and they keep coming back.

The same happened when I was spending time with loved ones who are still present.  Having fun and delighting in their company brought to mind those who were no longer sharing such moments, and the same feelings of frustration and pain would cloud the beautiful times I was having.

It was something I had to forcefully ‘put down’, to assertively ‘thrust from my mind’, and to push for ‘presence in the moment’.

Something changed when I learned my aunt had died.  I finally gave up.  I suddenly realized quite starkly how old I am and that all I really have is this life to live (in this body), and I finally decided to fully live it, to ‘ditch’ any asides that waste energy on futility.

There is a certain peace in that.  It’s not happiness or contentment, but a peace that comes from acceptance – and in that acceptance, I am finally able to fully commit to my own life, my own dreams and their manifestation, without diversion… (at least, I hope so).

Feels good for now.

The following is a poem I wrote many years ago.  It was written about a male friend, then, but I have changed it to female for my aunt, and placed it here for my cousins and relatives who also miss her.  It upholds my own beliefs.


(Copyright, L. O. Hennig)

She is gone, but not gone.
She remains in your heart.
She is alive in every memory.
She touches you in each moment of grief.

She is lost, but not lost.
She has shed her body and mortal woes.
She soars in the land of spirit.
She travels among the stars.

She has traveled in this world with you.
Now she travels in the realm of the divine.
She has known life’s pleasures and sorrows.
Now she remembers soul’s bliss and freedom.

She was born, and lived, and died.
She is now born, and lives, and never dies.
She was contained within a feeble body.
She is now free to become the galaxy she can be.

She is missed, but not forgotten.
She is here, but can’t be touched.
She is loved and remains loving.
She can see what we cannot.

She is blessed in pure spirit.
She is blessed by love in heart.
She is blessed with immortality.
She now knows that only bodies part.

She is gone, but not gone.
She has shed her worldly tasks.
She has taken off her fleshy clothes.
She has taken off her masks.

You are here, but not here.
You will some day do the same.
You will return to your spirit home.
You will finish your worldly game.

She will be there to hold your hand again.
She will help you fly back home.
She will help you shed the last of fear
That you ever were alone.

Until then, when in the gray you call her
She will come and fill your space
With her gentle warmth of presence,
With her love and spirit grace.

Be thankful that your journeys
Through this life had intertwined.
Be thankful that you hugged and laughed,
And that on great love you dined.

She is not gone, nor ever was –
Her body is now the Earth,
But like a butterfly from a chrysalis
Her death was in truth a birth.

You grieve for hugs and kisses.
You miss her smiling face –
But you will one day dance the cosmos with her
As you swirl through time and space.


To all those who have lost someone dear, may your grief allow you to treasure every moment of loving their existence and bring you the peace of knowing the blessing of their life.



Lilipily Spirit – Empower Your Life, Connect with the Divine


photo courtesy of
photo courtesy of

It has been hot for days.  So hot that you could not leave a window open.  So hot that you had to keep the curtains shut wherever the sun shone in, to prevent heat getting into the house.

Yes, we have air conditioners, but they cannot cope with such heat, either.  They struggled to do more than circulate warm air in our open plan house.

Outside, the garden was wilting.  The trees were losing their leaves.  I decided to risk the water bill and give them a drink.  They sang to me, afterwards, but the song was brief.  The heat went on.

I remember when we had our feast of Beltane, not so long ago – the beginning of November.  We threw flowers into the pond, then, praying for rain, but it didn’t come.

With the heat of the days enervating us so much, and hating to see another drought take away my garden, I prayed for rain each night.  I woke this morning wishing for rain, a respite, a drink, at least an overcast day to stop the sun beating down on us.

I was home, alone, when it happened.  The heavens opened, and it rained.  These were not drops, they were strands, they were sinews and muscles of rain, falling from the heavens to pound down on everything below.

At first, I was happy.  My garden would have a good drink.  I was glad that I had watered, too, because the rain would now soak into the soil and not just run off the surface.  It would be a good rain, a beneficial rain.  But then it kept on raining.

I am used to the storms in our sub-tropical region being heavy at times, but they always pass in a very short time.  They’re usually over in ten to fifteen minutes, but this one went on.

Our home was built on a sloping block where the surveyors said there was a water flow in wet weather.  Not a stream, but where the water gathers and flows downhill when it rains.  So we installed many catchments and drainage pits and pipes to channel the water away into the storm water drains  but still, in heavy rain our laundry courtyard, which sits on the upper part of the land where the water first gathers, struggles with the water dammed by our house.

Each wet season we check the drains to clear them of leaves and debris.  Despite a lot of water gathering there, they cope okay, usually, but this time they didn’t.  Those muscles of water pounded down and the courtyard water levels kept rising.

They flooded the garden shed and climbed the wall of the house slab.  It was eight inches deep and still gathering.  I feared that it would enter the house.

The drains were blocked.  I tried to unblock them over their grilles but only two began to gurgle.  I couldn’t move the grilles with my bare hands, the water was too deep, the rain was too heavy.  I couldn’t think straight.

I’m out there in a long kaftan, prayer beads I had just made hanging at my neck, the tassels soaked and wet cloth clinging to my skin.  All around me, lightning flashed and thunder cracked the ether.

When the lightning lit up the air with a huge branch just feet away from me, I gave up struggling with the grilles and dashed back inside.  For the next hour, I sat on my knees at the laundry door, scooping leaves off one of the drains that was still draining – a small opening just outside the laundry door – always watching the water levels against the brickwork, wondering if this little drain would be enough.

It was monotonous work, became automatic.  But then, the beauty of the water struck me, its clarity (where it didn’t have debris floating in it), the purity of the rainwater.  I reached my hand into it, felt its beauty, its life.

I sat back on my haunches for a moment (not for long, because the drain kept clogging with more debris), and looked up at the grey sky, the rain pouring down, and felt the trees and plants singing.  They weren’t worried about my house.  They were enjoying the beneficence pouring down on them.

I realized that the prayer beads I had just made were a wood called Saptaparni, also known as cheesewood or Milkwood Pine.  It’s a hindu sacred tree, belonging to the divine couple, Shiva and Parvathi.  The wood exudes a milky sap like the milk poured on a lingam, denoting the virility of life.  It is said to purify the doshas, to enable Panchakarma, the cleansing and rejuvenation of the body, mind, and spirit, restoring balance and well being.

I remembered my piece on the Tandava, written here, as the lightning cracked again. The lightning reminded me of Shiva.

Here was the blessing I had asked for, prayed for.  How many others had prayed for the same thing?  And now the heavens had opened up, and a deluge came down.  It really was a bit too much.  I wondered if this was the beginning of another flood.  We lived through a grand flood in our city not that long ago.  It’s not something I want to do again too soon.

So what could I do?  I thought of my rajadeva, could he help?  I remembered his kiss from long ago, and so I relived it, sending him a kiss and asking him for help.  Then I thought, I am an element of the divine.  I am co-creator of my existence.  What do I believe in?  I began to gently blow air through my lips, imagining that I was blowing the clouds out to sea.  I began to wave my hands above my head, imagining that I was waving the clouds further away.

I heard the thunder crack, so close.  The lightning flashed, too near.  My son’s little dog, a shihtzu, sat beside me like a lucky pixiu, watching my endeavors, not phased at all.  I thought, calm the ether, calm the elements, and reached out healing into the air, into the sky.

There was no immediate result, so I kept on working, scooping away the leaves and debris, throwing it onto the garden bed in the old vegetable patch so it wouldn’t re-enter the water.  I thought that perhaps my metaphysical efforts were not valid, that magic like that would not work in such large scope.

Then I noticed that the rain seemed a little less heavy, that the water levels had reduced a couple of milimeters, and then that the thunderclaps were becoming more distant.

In minutes, the rain had eased.  I was able to take some time to try to clear the other drains again.  My son’s little dog bounced through the water as if she was in the shallows at the beach – happy, excited.

Was it a coincidence, or a confirmation of what I believed?  Was I mad or was I living my spiritual dimension?

It didn’t matter.  I realized that blessings must come from the laws that hold this physical realm together.  When I wished for rain, it came, but only when the physical conditions could climb to a level that enabled that rain – and then, those same physical conditions meant that the rain would be heavy and prolonged.  Such is life on planet Earth.

The aftermath left water in our walls, leaking all over the inside window sills for hours.  The drainage hole in the laundry floor, which  connects to the outside drain, did well up and flood the tiles.  But that was the worst of it for us.

I was exhausted, but actually happy that my garden got a drink.  Plus it had been so hot, and my saturated garb had made me refreshingly cool.

Others did not fare so well.  By the time my husband came home and was able to remove the grilles and clear the drains, climb on the roof and clear the gutters again (that he had done not so long ago) a neighbor was working with a chain saw, trying to remove a tree that had come down.

On the news, we saw that flooding had happened all over our city, taking away cars with it, and many trees came down.  The tandava had wreaked destruction, but had also brought life – like the monsoons of India.

The respite was only brief.  The rain has come back, but is now slow and steady.  I can only wait and see if the ground will become so saturated that it will flood, like the last great floods we had.  (Not so good).  And the weather report is for more rain in the days ahead.  If it wasn’t for fear of past floods, I’d see it as a blessing.  So I am choosing to see it as a blessing, and taking a wait and see attitude for whatever else may come.

In every moment of challenge, there is beauty to be found, if you look.  I enjoyed walking through the water in my bare feet.  I enjoyed getting so saturated in the rain.  I enjoyed watching the dog gamboling in the water.  I loved the way the water felt when I wove my hand through it.

Yes, it was hard work.  Yes, I was exhausted.  But what a wonderful and immediate way to reconnect with life, with nature, and with the divine.

A moment of blessing, for all that.


Lilipily Spirit – Empower Your Life, Connect with the Divine




Photo courtesy of www,
Photo courtesy of www,


The vedic god, Shiva, is the god of creation and destruction.

I was once told (by my spirit mentor, the Rajadeva) that I am like Uma, who was Shiva’s second wife, (better known as Parvati), so I have made a special place for Shiva in my mind.

Most people in western society who aren’t familiar with the vedic gods tend to know the image of Shiva dancing the tandava or Nataraj (as shown in the picture, above), but even then may not fully understand what this image means.

Shiva is one of a triune of upper echelon gods and his cosmic task is to dance the cosmos into being, or into destruction.

In the Hindu view, Shiva is the god of yoga, who is able to transcend the human condition and the woes of the world, and it is believed that those who can meditate in the deepest trance-like states that Shiva attains can also achieve self-discipline and detachment, and therefore purity.

Shiva is one of the vedic gods who has had many worldly incarnations.  During one of his incarnations, he married a lovely demi-goddess named Sati.

Sati ended up by killing herself in a fire after attending a family gathering that her husband, Shiva, had not been invited to.

(This is where the ‘ sati ‘ ritual comes from, where a widow immolates herself in a fire at the funeral of her husband  – though the theme is not really related because Shiva was still alive when Sati killed herself).

She did so because she was ashamed of her family (who snubbed her when she came because she was married to someone they did not approve of) and distraught that despite her best efforts to prove Shiva’s worth to them, they continued to reject him just because he did not live his life according to their ways.

Sati mistakenly felt that she brought shame upon her husband because they were her relatives, so she killed herself in a gesture to honor him.  When Shiva found out what had happened, his rage and distress bubbled over.

Now, when you are a god and that happens, powerful forces come into play.  Shiva began to dance the tandava and under his stomping feet the whole universe began to disintegrate.

It wasn’t until the other gods came together in great force to plead with him that he finally saw sense and stopped dancing, allowing his grief and anger to settle.

Now, hearing this story, on one hand, you might commiserate with Shiva’s  grief at losing his beloved wife in such a senseless way.

On the other hand, you might question how and why a god might lose his sense of responsibility and presence to such a degree that he would almost blindly bring the universe to its knees under his tantrum – especially when that god is one who is capable of extreme asceticism and detachment from events.

So you need to know that Shiva didn’t get to such a position lightly, or even under some unhappy instant trigger.

Before Sati killed herself in shame, Shiva had counseled her many times about her family’s attitudes toward him.  He told her that he wasn’t really upset, that it had more to do with their character than it did with who he really was, and that she shouldn’t worry about it because it wasn’t affecting him at all.

Shiva was very wise and very cosmic in this attitude, and showed great generosity of spirit, as many do who follow spiritual paths and who do great deeds.  But despite his best efforts and intentions, and the wisdom he gave to others, he could not contain himself when pushed too far.

Even gods have a limit to how much they can take.  And even gods sometimes need a helping hand in realigning themselves to their inner truths once that ‘button‘ has been pushed.

Now,  we humans tend to forget that when we aspire to be ‘perfect’ or ‘better‘ than we suspect we are.  We rarely forgive others or even ourselves for throwing similar whammies or tantrums, no matter how relevant or with what justification they have.

People are often extremely judgmental about such things, possibly because, as Shiva’s tandava can be, such whammies can be dangerous.

When people feel threatened, they are extremely unlikely to put up with such modes, even if they are sympathetic to the reasons behind them.  No one likes menace.

You’d think that these modes of rejection of inappropriate or menacing behavior would be par for the course in the realm of responsibility inhabited by the gods, too, wouldn’t you?  But the fact is that gods and goddesses, whether multiple or singular, have far different agendas and viewpoints to the often ‘black and white‘ assumptions of human beings.

Read just about any story on the modes of a god or goddess, in any religion, modern or ancient, and at some stage you will find that they pretty well do as they please a lot of the time, even if that does hurt the humans they are apparently there to protect.

I’m not saying that they are completely fallible or that they don’t aspire to do better or to serve those under their care – but let’s face it, Gods do have disagreements that lead to wars. Gods do fight wars.   Life on planet Earth often suffers under collateral damage caused by the modes of the gods.  Not even the christian god is exempt from causing suffering, or from sending plagues or destruction.  Gods and goddesses are often more ‘human’ than humans !

Why then are we humans so bent on raising ourselves up to become like gods ?  Why do we aspire to be so perfect when not even the gods are perfect, or even pretend to be ?

Gods believe they are perfect as they are.  Their family and friends also believe they are perfect as they are.  Or if they don’t, the same troubles can be inflicted on them in much the same way they are inflicted upon us (like in Shiva and Sati’s story of being outcast by her relatives simply because they didn’t really like who she married).

What does stand out when it comes to godhood is that gods are forgiving.  So Shiva nearly destroyed the whole universe?  Did it matter in the long run?  No, not so long as he got ‘back on track’ and entered into creative and nurturing modes again.

Maybe being nigh on immortal helps them to maintain those modes. Let’s face it, they don’t die as often as we humans do, and they’re not so fragile.  Perhaps they can feel more forgiving simply because they feel less under threat, and more able to accept the destruction of the universe because they know inside themselves that they are capable of reinventing it at any time…

I think there is much to be learned in the stories about the gods and goddesses for we human beings, though.

No one needs to be perfect to be acceptable.  If we do break down under a load of stress and pressure, and do ‘wrong’ things for a time, that does not mean we are ‘bad’ people, necessarily.

Trying to live up to extreme standards set by ourselves or others is a mode prone to breakdown at some stage, because these are part of the basic themes of the universe – creation and destruction are cycles that alternate in the cosmos.

This may seem bad to those who build their lives on the illusion of security and permanence, but the fact is that nothing in life is ever truly secure or permanent.  Change is a constant in the universe, on every level.  Sometimes, it processes slowly, and sometimes rapidly, but change is inevitable.

As human beings, we rail against anything that threatens our welfare.  It’s part of the law of survival that we protect our welfare, so we spend a heck of a lot of our lives trying to do just that, and despite the obstacles and challenges that often get in the way of truly establishing its security.

As elements of the mind of god, we, too, have a sense of power inside ourselves, including the power of destruction and creation.  Perhaps we fear that power when we or others ‘go off the rails’, and thus imagine that more destruction than we can class as an acceptable loss may occur if such behavior is not curtailed?

In the image of Shiva dancing the tandava, you can see that he is atop a crouching demon.  In Vedism, demons are not so much evil, as such, but are people who express extremes, where expressing extremes sets the cosmos to imbalance and chaos. 

Under those modes, Shiva, himself, could be said to have temporarily become demon-like, when his tandavaspan out of control‘, yet the other gods remained true to him.  They trusted all they knew of him and did not frame their reference on one incident, even if that incident was extreme.

In the view of the universe, chaos is a necessary element of creation, and most things need to go through some degree of breaking down before they can be reconstructed in new and creative ways.  So destruction is necessary for new forms of life to begin.  Chaos is just the intermediary states that happen between the modes of integration – destruction – creation.

In the icon of the tandava, the demon beneath Shiva’s feet is saying that yes, deconstruction needs to occur before reconstruction or creation can happen, but ‘keep a hat on it‘ and don’t let things ‘get out of control‘.

It’s a warning – a reminder that the power of creation naturally holds the power of destruction, of which we must always be mindful lest the unleashing of that power becomes ‘blind and senseless’.

I don’t know many people who set out to be deliberately destructive.  (I do know there are some in the world, but that’s another story).  I do know, however, many brilliant, sensitive, kind and generous souls who were doing okay and were well received  by others, until the moment when they ‘lost the plot’ momentarily (as Shiva did), and thereafter found their actions examined with a persistent element of caution, just in case they ever did it again.

Maybe that wariness goes with having ‘danced the tandava’ but for a human being, who does not have the generous mercy of the gods to uphold their spirit as Shiva did, that sort of wariness is undermining and degrades and disrespects the structure of all they built before the breakdown occurred.

I am in awe of the forgiveness and acceptance of gods when it comes to being merciful and kind to those who are, and have been, in all other ways magnificent beings.  Gods know where their priorities lie.

Why should we keep kicking ourselves over an occasional or rare ‘whammy’ that has happened under extreme duress, when we have been pretty good human beings until then?

I had my own tandava, recently.  It didn’t last long but it was a ‘sky rocket’.  I’m over it now.  Life goes on.


Lilipily Spirit – Empower Your Life, Connect with the Divine