My Letter


Death becomes our future. Perhaps it is quite near; perhaps many years a far. Death is felt within the present moment. Ask yourself, do you feel dead inside, or alive?

Death is before us. We have said -and will say- countless goodbyes to those who have passed through our lives. How we choose to live this life determines our paths to death's door. Do we walk away in our suffering, or do we smile until no more? Some say to follow God's light, while others, only darkness awaits. Deep into the earth we go.

Do we get recycled? Thrown into the born-again cycle? Were we once amongst the stars? Were we deeply rooted as trees? Will we be once more? Do our spirits detach and get lost in the ethereals, or do we continue to walk the earth, looking to complete one last spiritual mission? Are we here right now, called to complete some service for death, carrying on its ageless secrets?

No matter to what end we live, we live to die. As for myself, I choose to stay on my own ascending journey, I will live to live this time, before I die. For if there is eternal life, I want to know I did everything for which I was sent here. I want the best to await me when my ashen wings return, my eternal flames burning fresh and bright.

I understood death early on, with the passing of pets, neighbors and grandparents. When my MeMama Maxie passed at 56 years old, I was eight. What was different with her passing was that we had a soul connection, though I didn't understand it at the time. Her eyes always seemed to be on me, content and deeply observant. She looked after me, and taught me the important things, how to skip, how to eat my black-eyed peas with vinegar and onions, how to make pull taffy.

When I broke my leg in kindergarten I was in the hospital overnight. Everytime I jolted awake from nightmares, she was there by my side. That early October morning, lying there with a full cast on my right leg, the restlessness was overwhelming and she ordered us both cups of coffee. It was my first one, I wonder if she knew she was starting a life long love affair?

Less than two years later, in that same hospital, getting one last hug from her, I could feel and smell her physical passing approaching. I remember feeling safe. I remember her mind seemed to whisper into my left ear, "Shit honey, it is going to be OK." (yes, she taught me that word, too). I felt though it wasn't the end for her and me. Her physical body left shortly after, but I never stopped talking to her.

Not long after MeMama died, I began to see a black cat in the house. Mostly I saw it turning corners and near our washer and dryer. Sometimes it would appear near my right leg. We had lots of outdoor cats, so at first I thought one had snuck in, but eventually I realized it wasn't that at all. The cat that I was seeing wasn't physically there. It was a presence, rather than actual animal. Once I came to terms with seeing a phantom cat, I told my mom, who didn't see it and didn't know what to say.

However, it wasn't long before she and my sister had encounters with it. We moved into another house, once settled, the cat appeared again. My dad started to see it. When I left for college, my feline spirit followed me, and my roommates began to catch glimpses of it.

After college, the cat disappeared for a long time (displaced by our telepathic dog?) The last time I saw it was for a few months' time, just after our daughter was born. I missed it, but life got busy and it wasn't until an article on symbolism made its way to me that I finallky understand. That last hug from my grandmother hadn't been the end. She had been with us the whole time, offering up her love during all those confusing years of my adolescence, when I needed her most.

I found out much later, my mom also would talk to her. We had summoned her guidance and protection by our connection. She came in the form of a black cat.

Amy H. Shirley

Amy H. Shirley, Massage Therapist

This letter is part of the Death Letter Project - North Carolina, a means to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Historic Oakwood Cemetery in Raleigh, NC.


Michael Palko