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In Loving Memory Of Hetty Drissen. RIP.


‘This body is not me; I am not caught in this body, I am life without boundaries, I have never been born, and I have never died. Over there, the wide ocean and the sky with many galaxies all manifest from the basis of consciousness. Since beginningless time I have always been free. Birth and death are only a door through which we go in and out. Birth and death are only a game of hide-and-seek. So smile to me and take my hand, and wave goodbye. Tomorrow we shall meet again or even before. We shall always be meeting again at the true source, always meeting again on the myriad paths of life.’
― Thích Nhất Hạnh

I wrote this letter in November 2022 with a heavy heart and sadness, as my dear friend and teacher, Hetty Drissen, had died a few days ago.
These words were a tribute to her and my attempt to embrace death as a teacher so you and I can live more fully and joyfully.

When we enter midlife, we encounter reflections upon our mortality, finding more meaning in our life, and the loss of loved ones.

In the second section of this love letter you will find some invitations to consciously relate to death.

Hetty was an extraordinarily colourful, quirky, irreverent, vibrant, generous and kind woman from whom I learnt the Rite of the Womb. She made the world a better place and will be missed by many.
She was a wise elder, pillar, and active community member. 
May she rest in peace and fly high home!

Hetty would have been excited to embrace this new cycle and adventure into the Great Mystery. I know she would have wanted people to be happy for her, as she is not gone; she only transitioned into another place and a different layer of existence. 
And so, I hold her in my heart, wanting to honour her legacy and teachings. I witnessed her while she trusted life’s intelligence and that she would always be ok and provided for, even when she did not know, from one day to another, how to pay her rent and when she had to face health challenges. Hetty navigated life graciously; she was never defeated by fear, even in front of great struggles. She was always smiling and was not afraid to face the dark. She taught by living and by example.

Another friend of mine mentioned how Hetty was sometimes an uncomfortable mirror. A woman in her mid-seventies with no children or blood family close to her, a traveller, Hetty made her home in the Andes. Some said she planted herself there as a seed. She faced the complicated Peruvian bureaucracy and the challenges of living in South America and created her soul tribe around her. I once asked her if she ever felt lonely. She said she was alone, but she was never lonely. And I know that she not only referred to the company of human beings but to the faith she had in a greater intelligence, including the magnificent presence of the Andes and spirit beings living in those mountains.

Hetty and I spent some time together the last time I was in Peru. I was looking forward to seeing her again soon and hanging out more, as her company was delightful. She held me with humour, empathy and compassion when I had difficult moments and doubted my capacity to step out into the world and work with the healing arts.

Hetty was an accountant for most of her life. Only in her late forties she started to train as a Reiki and Theta Healing practitioner. In Australia, she met Dianne Dunn, the founder of the Paz Y Luz Retreat Center in the Sacred Valley and a student of the Andean Traditions. Hetty hosted Diane to teach the Munay Ki Rites in Australia. Briefly after, she moved to Peru to manage Paz Y Luz. 

So, Hetty and I used to laugh about the fact that we were late bloomers.
She lost her father when she was seven. 
I lost my mum when I was six. 
She had some serious heart problems and heart surgeries. 
I had cancer.
She walked a long road to heal herself, love her inner child unconditionally, and trust that she had good medicine to share with the world. For these similarities, I felt so seen and understood by Hetty. She knew my struggles because she had been there. 

Hetty knew what it meant to do the nitty gritty work to genuinely offer her gifts and healing art to the world joyfully and coherently.

Last Monday, after I finished writing my love letter to you, I went for a walk in the countryside, and I had the urge to connect with her. I sent her a voice message and exchanged a couple of audios. I shared some words of love, gratitude and appreciation for her. Somewhat, this was a goodbye.
On the one hand, I am glad I followed my instinct and guidance. I am so happy she knew, only a few days before she died, how much she meant to me. On the other hand, I am sad I did not call her.

Hetty died on Friday with three friends who helped her in her transition. I am glad they accompanied and assisted her. 

Death is a Rite of Passage for the soul. As Marianne Williamson says: ‘death is not death, but is a recycling of energy, a remodulation of the cells according to higher assignments in a soul’s progression. The spirit does not die, but rather enters new channels of life. Our relationships are not severed at death but refocused beyond physical connection.’

In the last few years, as soon as I was in peri-menopause, I struggled with death. I became obsessed with it. 
I was scared. I was angry. 
I fought with it. And it kept me awake at night.
Perhaps the little six years old girl inside me was still unable to let go of her mum. And she was also terrified at the idea of becoming an orphan and losing her dad.
Interestingly, I went to Peru to do some work around this archetypal energy of the orphan. You can read it here.
And that is also where Hetty stepped in. Not only she passed me the Munay Ki Rites, but she supported me in endless conversations around the fear of death, abandonment, loss, void, and loneliness.

So I feel that her death is helping me dive deeper into my relationship with myself and All Life.
On Saturday evening, I was feeling sad. I was tempted to withdraw and stay at home. Part of me wanted to disappear and be invisible. I knew that if I did it, I would end up feeling anxious and would have risked either collapsing or spending too much time in front of the screen. I called a friend and asked her to go to her house. Later on, there was the possibility to go to a community event, a fundraiser with music, storytelling, and a direct zoom call with a charity in Gaza, Palestina, supporting theatre projects for children. For some strange reason, I sensed that the grief triggered other uncomfortable feelings, including shame. I observed it with curiosity.
And I remembered other times when deep sadness would awaken shame in me. What was it? Maybe the experience of the little child inside me who was not held in her despair when she lost her mum and had to swallow, numb, and repress her feelings as they were not accepted and tolerated by the adults around her?

The clock was ticking, and the event was about to start.
Then I asked myself: what would Hetty have done?
What would she ask me to do?
She indeed would have suggested enjoying life and celebrating her by living!
So I went, and my inner dialogue with her encouraged me to live a bit more and contribute to a beautiful cause and our community event.

We don’t know how we will die, and there is no right way. Death may be accompanied by illness or traumatic events. My mum died surprisingly when she was thirty-four years old. My exploration in the last months and years, while also navigating menopause, a portal into death in itself, led me to believe that a part of me wanted to die when my mother passed. I think this could explain the ongoing depression I had throughout my life. And I know that for some strange reason, feelings of shame and depression used to go hand in hand.

I am somewhat surprised by the grief and sadness I am experiencing. Perhaps Hetty’s death is waking up dormant or repressed feelings inside me related to the loss of my mother or allowing tears for the sorrow of the world. Maybe it does not have to have sense necessarily. It is all about letting the energy move and flow and trusting the intelligence of this process.

Depending on our relationship with the deceased, things can get quite messy. It is an initiation and catalyser for change—a time of rupture, confusion and unknown when a lot will need to be reorganised. We must allow grief and care for ourselves: eat, drink and sleep. Give us time to feel what we need and let go of perfectionism or labels. Feelings don’t need to fit into an organised pattern.

So, here below are a few things I have been reflecting upon in the last days. I am writing this for you and me.
The more we approach death with reverence, the more we can be in service to life.
Please find here some invitations.

1) Life is brief. Nourish your relationships.
Share some words of appreciation or write a letter to a friend who is still alive or somebody who contributed to your life and brought some beauty. Call them when you think of them.

2) Hang out in a Death Cafe. There are many worldwide.
A Death Cafe is an event where people drink tea, eat cake and discuss death with no agenda or objective.

3) Write poetry to remember your loved ones who have already transitioned and become ancestors, or plant trees for them. Honour their legacy. Share stories about them. Pray for them, according to your cosmology so that they can be at peace. Create an altar for them where you offer them some flowers.
Ask questions about your grandparents or great-grandparents.
Explore your family tree.

4) Reflect on how you want to live your life and how you want to be remembered. Strive to become a better human being and good ancestor for the next generations. I remember during Initiation, a Movement Medicine workshop where we used to dance with life cycles, from birth to death, each participant would write an epitaph for themselves of a maximum of 21 words. How would it be yours?

5) If you have the possibility, gather with trusted friends or find a way to write your testament. What would your funeral look like? Would you like a poem or some music? To whom do you want to leave your possessions?

6) The fear of death keeps us disconnected from life. Our culture holds so many taboos around this topic that we become paralysed and forget living. We sanitise death, don’t have long vigils and relegate it to hospitals, yet get numbed by violent murderers in movies.
Make friends with death in a more healthy and respectful way.
Watch inspiring documentaries. And there are many beautiful books!
I want to buy ‘Living With Death And Dying’, ‘On Life After Death’, by Elisabeth Kubler Ross, and ‘The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying’ by Sogyal Rinpoche.

7) If a loved one is ill and about to die, consider connecting with a death doula if available in your country. They are death midwives who can support the person and their family emotionally and spiritually. This intimate partnership with a practitioner may help one embrace death consciously. It is a way for the family to express love and care.

8) I highly recommend the work of Dr Daniel Foor, who recently became a neighbour here in Granada. He has a lot of free material, videos, articles and courses that explore cross-cultural teachings on ancestral reconnection, death, dying and the soul, and caring for the recently deceased.

9) If someone just died, I appreciate Daniel’s advice of invoking greater powers and the ancestors (or whatever resonates with you, i.e. God, the Universe, the Great Mystery) so they can support the transition of the person who just passed and open the road for their soul. Something sacred is happening. We can get out of the way a bit, and there is a more surrendered way of participating.

That’s it for today, dear friends.
I am moving home, and there is a lot to do today!

Let me know how this lands for you and your experience with the dying.