We all must face our fears at different phases in our lives. What if you were fighting with a destructive and rare cancer that was affecting your heart?
Let’s say that you were invited to a conference where various leading professionals, psychologists, mediums, psychiatrists and grief-stricken people gather to discuss afterlife issues. What happens? Where do we go and will it be wonderful?
This was the journey for twenty-four year old Maire, who, sitting in a wheelchair, embarked with two guys she hardly knew. Clearly a leap of faith and trust of ones gut feeling, not to mention courageous.
Our journey started at the airport for Chaz, my assistant producer and myself. We had to become accustomed to traveling with someone in a wheelchair. Maire’s legs are very tender and bandaged up due to severe side effects from the chemotherapy, which has left her legs swollen and blistered.
Fortunately my baggage handler Ken from Delta was working that day. I’ve known Ken for a while; he always takes care of me when I’m traveling since I always have in tow a fair amount of camera gear.
While that was the case on this trip, our twenty-four year old traveling companion was far more important than our lighting equipment and cameras. Ken was waiting at curbside when we arrived. He took care of the luggage and enabled us to concentrate on Maire and her maize and blue University of Michigan wheelchair.
Before I go any further, I think it’s important I give you a better understanding of Maire’s personal life…
Maire lives at a convalescent nursing home facility that she actually used to work at. This location allows Maire to be close to her doctor at the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center.
Maire’s family lives several hours away. She does not see them often, so basically, she is really on this journey alone for most of the time.
We arrived in St. Louis on a Thursday afternoon and took our time settling into the hotel. By Friday morning, we were all in the thick of deep conversation about the afterlife and Maire clearly was overwhelmed.
Maire and I were alone in a conference room that I had set up for our interview. Maire became emotional and started to cry. She confided in me that this gathering of like-minded people all talking about death and dying was too much and she wanted to go to her room.
I arranged for MaryBeth Mazzone, one of the Shaman practitioners, to do some body work for Maire in her room. I was hoping that this time with MaryBeth would relieve some of the overwhelming stress and weariness that Maire was feeling, not to mention the exhaustion of being there.
After that, I was unable to reach Maire until 7pm that evening. You can imagine I was more than nervous. After trying to call her several times, I finally went to her room and knocked on her door. After we talked, I convinced Maire to attend the opening ceremony that was lead by Linda Fitch, Executive Director of the Four Wings Society, Dean of the Healing the Light Body School and a leading Shaman practitioner.
The dimly lit conference room was filled with men and women, but mostly women. Linda explained the rituals to the ceremony that she performed; this was done by all the individuals placing rose petals into the center of a blanket on the floor. The rose petals were to represent something you wanted to rid yourself of in your life.
While filming all of this, I also watched Maire, who was being carefully attended to by Terri Daniel. As the ceremony came to an end, Linda folded the blanket up and asked Maire if she would like to lead the procession to a nearby lake to empty the blanket of rose petals into the water. This process was a candlelit walk – a truly magical sight. By the end of the night, Maire was a changed person.
The next day, Maire became fully engaged in all the activities and conversations. Later that day, Linda Fitch did an hour long, in-depth bodywork session while Maire laid peacefully in her bed. You could see Maire was releasing deep, pent-up fear as her mascara ran from the tears in her eyes.
It became very apparent to me that all of us who experienced this conference, while we gained a great deal from the open discussions about death and dying, we were even more fortunate to have been in the presence of Maire who continues on her journey with dignity and courage.I am happy to say Maire made some new friends that I’m sure will be there for her if ever needed.