A Story of Light

♥ We are all conduits of light ♥

Month: June, 2012

Do not stand at my grave and weep.

“Do not stand at my grave and weep,
I am not there; I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow,
I am the diamond glints on snow,
I am the sun on ripened grain,
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you awaken in the morning’s hush
I am the swift uplifting rush<
Of quiet birds in circling flight.
I am the soft star-shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry,
I am not there; I did not die.”

~ Mary Elizabeth Frye

This past weekend was a whirlwind with regards to emotion.  Friday night and Saturday morning I attended the wake and funeral of a beloved family member.  It was a somber two days, yet there have been what seems like these random flashes of memories being played out right in front of my face, over and over again.   I know I am blessed, because in thinking and feeling these memories out, all I can feel now is love and happiness even from with in the darkest memories.  As I made it into the afternoon of Saturday the energy changed a bit as I attended the dance recital of my beautiful cousins, Olivia (5), Kelsey (14) and Kaitlyn (16).  I couldn’t help but shed some tears as Olivia danced, she was glowing and happy and I knew in that moment that these were the steps to the beginning of everything for her and I was there to see it.  I ended the weekend with great friends, good food and drink and an amazing time and so I began to think of this incredible cycle we call life and how in the same weekend I had experienced the extremes of what life is all about.  Where we had the departing of an older soul, those who are developing their own and those who are only just beginning.

The first time I ever read the poem above written by Mary Elizabeth Frye, was on the first day of my grandfathers wake (my mothers father), 11 years ago.  I was so confused, and I was sure as hell not ready to say goodbye to him and so a large part of me stayed hidden away trying to understand what had just taken place.  I had never felt that deep of a loss or had experienced losing someone before my own eyes as I did with my grandfather Pat.  I can remember I was sitting in the funeral parlor and I flipped over one of my grandfather Patsy’s mass cards and that poem is what I found.  I was floored, stunned.  I knew, even with being so young at the time and not aware of my own divinity just yet, I knew I was supposed to read the poem and that the poem was supposed to be on my grandfather’s mass cards for so many to have read and take home with them forever, including myself.  You see, this poem encompassed all of who I perceived my grandfather to be and so I knew in my heart that he had fixed it so that specific poem would find me at that precise moment.  He was selfless, intelligent, hard working, honest, loving, kind and free and he would have never wanted us to hurt, to mourn as deeply as we did.

He would have smirked and chuckled and said, “Cut it out!  Just look around and I’ll be right there, whenever you need me.”  The minute I read that poem I knew, without a shadow of a doubt that my grandfather was not in that coffin.  His vessel was, but his spirit was very much alive and with me, with us all.  I didn’t equate this to my beliefs or religion at the time but more so what I was feeling and my intuition.  He was here one minute, full of love and the next, gone?  It didn’t make sense to me.  Then, we were to follow through these ceremonies, mourn him and bury him to say our goodbyes?  No, I knew there was more to it and I didn’t stop until I figured it out for myself, and I have.

I am a people watcher and so I tend to observe people especially in the most significant and monumental moments.  Death, being one of them, I find it fascinating how each individual, culture and society handles death uniquely.  With the experiences of this past weekend, I began thinking of our rituals of death, and by us I mean of the world and how they have came about.  As well, how our rituals and ceremonies are so richly and closely entwined with our spiritual and religious beliefs.

Funeral rituals and customs are as old as civilization itself and there are three things in common relating to death that have held through time no matter the culture and they are funeral rites, rituals, ceremonies, a sacred place and memorialization.  Neanderthal burial grounds dating to 60,000 BC had animal antlers on the body and flower fragments next to the corpse telling us some type of ritual, gift and remembrance existed.  As primitive and without any great psychological knowledge as the Neanderthal man was believed to be, there is proof that they instinctively buried their dead with ritual and ceremony, very much in the same way we do now.  But why? And how did this come about?

It is said that fear played a huge part in what we accept as our rituals today and that this fear of the dead carried over into what was developed into our religions and philosophies.  Neanderthal believed life and death events were the acts of spirits but since he was not able to see or sense these spirits, he lived in a world of terror.  The first burial customs then, were within a raw state of efforts to protect the living from the spirits, which were believed to have caused the death of the person.  Fear of the dead caused the burning of bodies to destroy evil spirits, which later became a custom adopted by many through time including certain Hindu and Asian cultures.

Many primitive tribes even today simply run away from their dead, leaving them to rot.  Zoroastrians allow their dead to rot or be devoured by vultures.  In Tibet and among the Kamchatkan Indians, dogs are used.  Herodotus tells us that the Calatians ate their own dead, it was considered a sacred honor and duty.  To this day, certain African tribes are known to grind the bones of their dead and mingle them with their food.  The Zulus burn all of the belongings of the deceased to prevent the evil spirits from even hovering in the vicinity.   In Hebrew belief, the dead were considered unclean and anyone who came in contact with the dead were declared unclean.  Sacrifices of one kind or another were also offered in honor of the dead.  In some cases their purpose was again, to appease the spirits.  In some cultures, these sacrifices were meant to be used by the deceased in the future world.

Native American tribes maintained their own death customs and adapted them to their regional environments, although such rituals and beliefs could pass from one group to the other through trade and intermarriage. Most Native American tribes believed that the souls of the dead passed into a spirit world and became part of the spiritual forces that influenced every aspect of their lives. Many tribes believed in two souls: one that died when the body died and one that might wander on and eventually die.  Burial customs varied widely from tribe to tribe. Indians disposed of their dead in a variety of ways.

Within certain Italian cultures, the family themselves take control of the deceased’s body.  They prepare the body, wash them, clothe them and set them out for viewing for relatives and the town.  The visitors and mourners bring coffee or sugar as gifts.  The body sleeps in the house with the family until it is time to bury them.  Once the wake is over, the family caries the body through the streets of the town to the cemetery where they nail the coffin themselves and place them into the wall.  I know this because, I experienced it first hand in Italy when my fathers father (Eduardo).

Many of our own funeral customs have their historical basis in pagan rituals.  Modern mourning clothing came from the custom of wearing special clothing as a disguise to hide identity from returning spirits.  Covering the face of the deceased with a sheet stems from pagan tribes who believed that the spirit of the deceased escaped through the mouth. Feasting and gatherings associated with the funeral began as an essential part of the primitive funeral where food offerings were made.  Wakes held today come from ancient customs of keeping watch over the deceased hoping that life would return.  The lighting of candles comes from the attempts to protect the living from the spirits.  The practice of ringing bells comes from the common medieval belief that the spirits would be kept at bay by the ringing of a consecrated bell.  The firing of a rifle volley over the deceased mirrors the tribal practice of throwing spears into the air to ward off spirits hovering over the deceased.  Originally, holy water was sprinkled on the body to protect it from the demons.  Floral offerings were originally intended to gain favor with the spirit of the deceased and Funeral music had its origins in the ancient chants designed to placate the spirits.

I have read up quite of bit on this subject and I have been through my own experiences.  As well, I have experienced loss and its rituals within other cultures first hand.  In the end, what takes place after the souls of those I loved departed didn’t matter.  Don’t get me wrong, it felt good to work within tradition and see the rituals and ceremonies through as a means of respect.  However, what was most important for me was the understanding that those who leave here are never truly gone, and that those who have left have done so for us, just as much as themselves.  That, what we are left with after they leave, what we see fit as a means of saying a proper goodbye is purely for our comfort here on the 3rd dimensional plane, to help us transition within a time that holds fear and seemingly has no reason, when in truth everything has its reason.

Presently, there is no doubt that a large part of our rituals and our ceremonies have just as much to do with the psychological aspects of grief and mourning as they have to do with tradition or conditioning.  For many, regardless of how our ways were formed, find great relief in them, which in turn allows our rituals to act as a vehicle for healing.  Yet, in having read all of this information perhaps another question is formed, what other parts of us and our beliefs, our culture and society have we allowed fear to construct for us?  What comes to mind for me could triple the length of this post!  However, I’ll leave you with that question to answer for yourself and possibly challenge some thoughts, maybe finally ask those questions that have needed asking, or to make some changes that you knew you needed to make, but couldn’t until right now.

♥ All of my love and light ♥


~ Jennifer

Zeus? He’s Got Nothing On My Dad.

In fact, Zeus could learn a few things from my dad! My hope is that you all come to know unconditional love. Whether it is from a parent, a grandparent, a child, siblings, friends, a life partner, or most importantly yourself, my wish is for you to know a love that will never, ever fade. Can we all just stop and really think about this for a moment? Think of the power behind a love that will never fade, that will never die. Step away from the screen close your eyes and give yourself a moment before you come back. Imagine a love so grand it literally swallows you whole, reminding you of who you are, that you are precisely where you need to be and that, every atom of your being is perfect 🙂 This kind of love that defies all odds, it saves lives as well as creates new life, this kind of love creates miracles, and I know this because I have witnessed it. Our inward journey towards loving ourselves unconditionally can turn out to be a life’s struggle for many. Unfortunately, I have watched some perish before ever achieving it. Yet, if we are fortunate enough, throughout our toughest life lessons we have that one or more then one person that will always love us unconditionally no matter what. I speak of that love that never judges, leaves or decreases, which never changes and stays the same eternally constant and is forever growing with time. So far in my life’s experience, this is the love of my family and in honor of fathers day yesterday, more specifically, my father.

One of my earliest memories is of when I was around 5 years old. I remember waiting on the steps in the early morning for my father to leave for work. I would wake up and run to the top step where I would sit waiting for him to pass me. Before continuing down the stairs and out the front door, my father would pick me up and place me back into bed tucking me in and giving me a kiss. He was usually out of the house by 6 am, and I was always half asleep but I needed to be there to see him off. I was too young to fully understand that kind of commitment yet somehow I knew then, there wasn’t anything he wouldn’t do for me, for all of us. It is 28 years later and he still wakes up at 6 am every morning for work, both my mother and father still do.

Through life’s up and downs my father has never lost his faith. He has always kept his optimism, has never lost his boyish charm, sense of humor and most importantly he has never lost his laughter. There was and still is a confidence that he keeps, he has never and will never care what anyone else has to say, unless of course it is about his family and in that case, take cover! He is insanely loyal, to the degree of what some might see as a fault. He is as strong as an ox but as gentle as a teddy bear. He has always followed his heart and even though he has been taken advantage of repeatedly, he has never stopped giving. He is happiest when all of those around him are happy, and he loves with everything he has got. There has never been a day in my life where I didn’t feel protected. There wasn’t a day where I didn’t feel as though everything I could ever need or want I had. I have never lived a day without feeling that, anything is possible. This is because of a love I continuously and unconditionally receive from an incredible father. So much of who I am is my dad. He has helped me to shape who it is I have become and will forever affect who it is I am to be.

Every family and its dynamic is different and it is so important that we respect that. There are those with incredible endurance and strength, men and women, mothers and fathers, grandmothers and grandfathers, aunts and uncles, sisters and brothers who have assumed both rolls, acting as both mother and father. I know we have these days once a year in honor of our mothers and fathers, but it is so important to hold the same appreciation we hold on these days, everyday for those who have selflessly dedicated their lives to caring and loving for us.

The best gift we can give ourselves is unconditional love. When we allow ourselves to love in this way, our cup overflows and that love reaches all of those around us. It is no mystery that the best gift we can give children is love, unbridled, unconditional love and support. Loving who we are in turn allows us to love others fully, this is the love my father provided and still provides. When we love those around us the best we can and with truth and intent, it teaches those watching how to fly.

“My father didn’t tell me how to live: he lived, and let me watch him do it.” ~ Clarence B. Kelland

Thank you dad, for everything and for being the very best of everything for us, always. I love you always, forever and a day.

♥ All of my love and light ♥


~ Jennifer

Stop Looking For Me So Intently, So That I May Find You.

“Stop looking for me so intently, so that I may find you.”

~ Jennifer Santaniello

Sometimes the answers we need are right in front of our face.  Sometimes, it takes a good friend and person to say to us, “slow down!!!!”.  Maybe what we are looking for is actually patiently waiting for us to slow down and stop running frantically about, so that it may finally catch up to us.

There are times in our lives which demand and require our biggest fight, if we are fortunate enough parts of our lives will always require us to dig this deep.  Yet, there are times in life where only in our arrest, in our stillness do we find what we need, or rather, what we need finds us.  Perhaps the key is just the right balance of action, persistence, determination, patience as well as the willingness to stop where we are when need be, and just be happy, feel grateful and allow the seeds we’ve planted along the way to rise up around us in greatness and with love.

My intention in writing this post tonight is to remind you that it is ok to slow down every so often, and allow the answers you seek to find you.  Sit back tonight, relax, do something that makes you incredibly happy and if that entails doing nothing other then sitting in silence, then so be it!  Who knows, perhaps it is in our quietest moments that we receive the answers to our biggest questions (;

♥ All of my love and light ♥


~ Jennifer

What’s Meant To Be Will Always Find A Way.

“There is so much about my fate that I cannot control, but other things do fall under the jurisdiction. I can decide how I spend my time, which I interact with, whom I share my body and life and money and energy with. I can select what I can read and eat and study. I can choose how I’m going to regard unfortunate circumstances in my life-whether I will see them as curses or opportunities. I can choose my words and the tone of voice in which I speak to others. And most of all, I can choose my thoughts.”

Elizabeth Gilbert

I chose to open with this quote because we are given free will and we make our own decisions.  Whether we are dependent upon others in making those decisions is still, ultimately our choice.  Yet, at my very core I believe as well that there are many moments and events in our lives that are meant to happen in order to get us to where it is we are meant to be.  Universal principles occur in which the order of things is presumably prearranged, a ruled cause of events through time.

I hadn’t expected to write this past weekend although I knew I would touch upon the topic of fate eventually, events conspired to push me into writing this post.  Friday, I was at my aunt’s house that was holding a get together.  Mary, a life long friend of my mother and aunt was there and we had been catching up because we hadn’t seen each other in quite some time.  She had asked about my schooling and I had informed her how I conveniently had enough Psych and Social Science credits from college to be able to step into grad school with ease.  My major in college had been Animation and so ten years ago I would have never imagined I would be here now.  I went on to express my gratitude in the forces of the universe, acknowledging how my earlier choices in life helped to create my current aspirations and present reality of becoming an Art Therapist.  We got into talking about how our decisions shape our lives even decades later and how there are events that unfold that we could never imagine or explain away.  This is when Mary told me the story that inspired this post.

Mary started off by saying she enjoyed her week because she was able to visit with an old dear friend of hers.  A friend who currently lives in Vermont, but that wasn’t always the case.  Mary’s friend Brenda lived here in NY originally.  When she was younger she was engaged to be married but the engagement was called off.  Mary’s friend remained here in NY and her ex-fiancé Steve relocated to California and eventually married.  Twenty plus years had gone by, when Mary’s friend received a random call on her answering machine.  It was Steve and he explained that he had gotten her number when he was at work.  He had been in the middle of a company meeting regarding new computer software and the computer expert asked each of the workers within the meeting to give him a name and in return he would locate the their contacts and provide addresses and numbers, this was meant as a demonstration of the new software.  Steve gave the computer expert Brenda’s name.  The computer expert was able to locate her and provide a number for Steve.  However, at the time of his call, Brenda was away.  She retuned to find a message from Steve on her answering machine but realized he had forgotten to leave his number.  Brenda was scheduled to leave on business again almost immediately, so, on her machine she created the answering message to say “To the party who called me looking to reconnect, I would love to, however you failed to leave your number.  If you get this, leave your information and I will return your call when I get back into town”.  Upon Brenda’s return the second time she found Steve had left another message, with his number!  They started to become reacquainted and began to learn about one another again.  Brenda learned that Steve and his wife had divorced but that since then his ex wife had passed away from cancer and he was now living in Vermont, in his lake house he had won in the divorce situated on Lake Champlain.  For quite some time the couple would take turns visiting each other between NY and Vermont.  Two years into courting they married.  Today, they are living a wonderful life together, traveling the world and have become very active within their communities especially with regard to environmental issues, creating positive change through the love they have for themselves, for one another and everything around them.

The entire time Mary was telling me this story I had chills and goosebumps running up and down my entire body, all I could say was, WOW!  And Mary agreed!  All of those years later, after so much time apart, so much life experience between the two, the highest highs and lowest lows, only to be reunited at that particular moment in time?  I knew I needed to share this story with you all.  Our discussion closed with a firm agreement, that it couldn’t have happen to a nicer person and that in the end being good at heart and to those around us truly comes back to us, one way or another.  Most importantly we agreed that sometimes, it isn’t a matter of ‘if’, but more so a matter of ‘how’ and ‘when’.  I don’t know everything but what I have found to be true?  It is important to trust in who we are and what we are doing as long as we are true to ourselves, as long as we are the best we can be.  It takes patience, but if we can do that, it seems as though everything else has a way of falling into place 😉

“I thought about one of my favorite Sufi poems, which says that God long ago drew a circle in the sand exactly around the spot where you are standing right now.  I was never not coming here. This was never not going to happen.”

Elizabeth Gilbert

♥ All of my love and light ♥


~ Jennifer