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How do you find renewal after loss, especially the loss of a child? How do you find purpose and courage to rejoin the world? Sandy Corcoran faced these questions—and received the most astonishing and extraordinary answers. Through a series of synchronicities that defied explanation, a variety of Native elders and indigenous wisdom-keepers became Sandy’s mentors, helping her step back from the darkness into the daylight. Whether in her backyard, immersed in esoteric teachings or exploring the sacred sites of Peru ...
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How do you find renewal after loss, especially the loss of a child? How do you find purpose and courage to rejoin the world? Sandy Corcoran faced these questions—and received the most astonishing and extraordinary answers. Through a series of synchronicities that defied explanation, a variety of Native elders and indigenous wisdom-keepers became Sandy’s mentors, helping her step back from the darkness into the daylight. Whether in her backyard, immersed in esoteric teachings or exploring the sacred sites of Peru and Mexico, Sandy recounts her challenges, personal discoveries, and describes some of her initiations. Her unusual journey through the landscape of metaphysics, shamanism, the dream time, the world of living energies, and the luminal and imaginal realms is, in some ways, universal to us all. Between the Dark and the Daylight reminds us that no matter how far outside of the familiar we are led, we eventually are guided back to ourselves and offered another opportunity to embrace and navigate our world and, ultimately, to find our place in it.
It was fall in New England, and although the world was ablaze with seasonal colors as the trees turned, my world was void of all color. The days were getting shorter, and as the dark of night slipped in, I felt panic, the panic of both not wanting to dream and to awaken to a reality I wanted only to dismiss. My nights, like my days, were too long, too dark. With the death of my daughter six weeks earlier, my world had become coated in Vaseline—nothing would ever be clear again. I was so overwhelmed with my own grief I couldn't deal with my husband's grief or with my friends and co-workers when they'd generously call or drop by to see if I needed anything. I felt I had to assuage their grief, and that took too much energy. I felt the constant need to be alone, to hide, to retreat into my reflections. At night I sought solace in my car, driving aimlessly, protected by my self-imposed isolation.
Tonight, the rain was beating down, making the already smeared outer world even less distinct. As had become usual in these nightly sojourns, I had no set direction and welcomed the numbness in my body as a fellow passenger. But tonight my bladder was suddenly pulling me back to some semblance of the physical world, rudely intruding on my space. It was odd to feel my body, as it had become like a lifeless appendage since Callie's death.
Momentarily, my bladder's interruption retreated as my mind once more became consumed with questions about where she was. The priest's picture of children in heaven brought no solace. The doctors' efforts to console me with the fact she was no longer in pain did anything but. She had been just sixteen months old. She couldn't take care of herself. Was she safe? Had she gone into "the light?" Who was there to hug her? I agonized over whether I had dressed her for her passage in warm enough clothes and whether the locket I had placed around her neck—enclosing pictures of me and her dad—would keep us fresh in her memory. I questioned if I had sent her off with good company—the handmade Raggedy Ann she had loved so much. In my torment I asked what had I done wrong that I couldn't love her enough to make her healthy, to make her stay, to fix this.
The Vaseline world, the driving rain, my own torrent of tears, my bladder tugging for my attention—everything I wanted to ignore so I could enjoy my new companion Numbness suddenly parted like fog as a light intruded. The light stopped me like the crossing guard at the school where I taught. I pulled over and stared at a long, low building with a small globe-shaped entrance light above the door. Inexplicably, the light had penetrated my world and summoned me to stop, and so I had. Taking in my surroundings, I realized I was lost. But even this realization didn't penetrate deeply. I didn't care that I was physically lost; the feeling of disconnect mirrored my emotions. All that mattered at this moment was the light. I wasn't even sure if the building was occupied; I just felt commanded by the light to enter.
There was a lot of activity inside, with people milling about in what seemed like a lobby. They didn't register individually in my brain and no one noticed me. The bright lights of the foyer accosted me. I had been sheathed in darkness these days past, talking mostly to Death, shaking my fist at God, wondering what life could possibly hold without Callie's presence and the smiles her innocence and delight with the world around her always brought out in me and others.
I looked for a bathroom in which to hide from the lights and the congregation of people, and to take care of my bladder. A few minutes later, when I emerged from the bathroom, I was grateful to find the foyer empty. I was feeling increasingly disoriented, so I couldn't find the door to escape back out into the comfort of the dark night. The panic was creeping in again; I had to hide. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a turquoise blur. My legs suddenly felt shaky, probably a result of not eating anything since I couldn't remember when. I looked for a chair, but the only one I could see was just inside the doorway of the next room—where the turquoise blur moved.
Evenassat I was not aware I had entered sometype of lecture hall, one filled with people listening. My focus was so narrow that all I saw was the turquoise shape, who was speaking up front. It was a woman's voice. Over what must have been several minutes, her words began to penetrate my fog. Her words, which to this day I cannot recall, hooked me and kept me in my seat.
I had no sense of time, but eventually I heard clapping and then saw people rising and leaving. I made my way up to the turquoise shape. I don't know what I expected or what I was going to say, but I wanted—no, I needed—this abstract being to know hers were the first words I had heard in days.
The woman was finishing up her conversation with the people who had clustered around her. I tried to take her in, this woman who had been a blur but a moment before. She was wrapped in a turquoise caftan-like dress. She had fine silver braids, three of them to my surprise. On every finger she wore turquoise and coral rings and Native-designed silver bracelets up her arms. It was as if she had become crystallized before me so I could take in her presence, but she did not look at me. Finally there were just the two of us. Although I was standing next to her, she still did not look at me, as she said, "Now I understand. You are one of the reasons why I have come. Tomorrow I will begin to teach you what I know. It is time for you to begin."
Confused, I countered, "I can't do that right now in my life." Trying to come up quickly with a coherent reason without spilling out my pain and collapsing into tears again, I sputtered, "I don't have the money or the time."
Arguing seemed reassuring. Arguing with the Universe had become one of the few daily transactions I could muster these last few weeks. I had stayed night and day with my daughter for eight weeks through the end of the summer of 1983 at Boston Children's Hospital: trying to make sense of the diagnosis, trying to comfort her through the many and painful tests, arguing with the doctors about alternatives, arguing with my family because I refused to go home and get some rest, arguing with the hospital chaplain that God couldn't expect these things of children. I had been living, sleeping, cuddling, and playing together with Callie in the cramped hospital room and outside in the hospital's enclosed garden whenever we were allowed that reprieve. We'd sit by the garden's fountain, watching the water rise, and I would read my daughter's favorite books to her—vigilant day and night to make her world seem normal in this abnormal setting, capturing precious time together.
Now, this strange woman standing before me, who still refused to make eye contact, spoke again. "You will come tomorrow morning. There will be no fee. I am here to teach you another way. You are right—you do not have the time. Your body is a skeleton from the waist up and that is not the promise you made Great Mystery. You have a lot to do in this lifetime and you have promised others you would be available to them. We need to get your feet to that path, now."
I started to argue, but she held up her hand, dismissing my next thought, and promptly turned and left. I stood there for a moment bewildered and realized there was absolutely no one to argue with—I felt even the Universe had left the room.
The next morning I returned. I don't know why. I was hiding in the ladies room, having given in to my sobs once again. Who was I kidding? I couldn't sit through a workshop with other people. And what the hell was the workshop even about? And who was this woman to tell me I had to work with her? Who was she? This was stupid, useless for where I found myself. I was out of here. I'd never promised her I'd show up, and besides I'd never see her again anyway.
As I blew my nose and stepped out of the stall, there she was. We were two women in a face-off, alone. She stood with her arms defiantly crossed, her back against the door, leaving me no escape. This time her eyes held mine, "My name is Oh Shinnah," she said. "And my first daughter died, too." Her admission struck me as if she had slapped me across the face. How did she know? I had said nothing. "Now pull yourself together and get out there. We have a lot to do." She turned and left in what felt like a repeat performance of the previous night—an obvious dismissal of my coming argument, my fear, and even my pain. This was the first of many times when I realized this woman, who was to become my first Native American mentor, took no prisoners.
During that weekend, I was part of a large group of predominately women who had come from far and wide to hear Oh Shinnah and learn from her teachings. They were nurses, psychotherapists, body workers, those interested in the use of crystals and alternative forms of energy healing. Working this first weekend with Oh Shinnah was one of her dear friends, another amazing teacher and healer in her own right, Dr. Dolores Kreiger. They taught us the use of different types of crystals to cleanse or shift energies in the human biofield, about the subtle energy bodies and chakras, the dynamic use of Therapeutic Touch—the hands-on teaching that Dr. Dee, as Dr. Kreiger was affectionately called by her close associates, had immortalized—and, most importantly, how when we chance to change our perspective we can heal ourselves and offer others tools to heal themselves.
I found I was hungry for this information, starving actually. It wasn't that I was completely unaware of the healing modalities they were speaking about or of Native American cosmology. In fact, over the past two years, I had begun to read as much as I could find on the Native path. I had received my master's degree just eighteen months earlier, in the blossoming stages of Lesley University's programs on Expressive Therapies and Integrated Arts. While studying for my master's on nights and weekends, I had continued my job as a fulltime Special Needs educator. Daily, my Special Needs students taught me that appearances can be deceiving and there is much more to things than what we see on the surface.
I was already using classroom techniques that were outside the pedagogical box. For example, in a hands-on exploration of the natural world, I would ask the kids to examine the similarities and differences between a simple stone they had found and a chunk of quartz crystal I had brought in. They could then apply this practice in discernment to other subjects, such as their poetry, helping them give voice to feelings that were often difficult for them to access and express. As they wrote about their feelings through their poetry, it opened doorways to deeper personal insights. My hope was that no matter how difficult their individual circumstances, they might better see how their lives had purpose. Thus, part of my curriculum involved introducing the kids to nature from a Native American perspective—the belief that all things are alive with energy and everything in life has a purpose. So, it wasn't so surprising to hear some of what Oh Shinnah and Dr. Krieger were sharing in the workshop. Although I was engaged in their teachings, what I was more acutely aware of during this weekend was that what connected me to Oh Shinnah was the loss of a child.
I had become pregnant during my last year of graduate school, and despite the hectic pace of finishing my master's thesis and closing out the year with my Special Needs students, I eagerly anticipated the birth of my first child. Callie arrived by C-section at noon on Mother's Day. What a gift to this new mother.... Everything seemed normal to my husband (whom I will call Ben) and me, and the doctors gave no indication there was anything out of the ordinary. She had ten fingers and ten toes, she passed all her post-natal tests, she nursed almost immediately, and she made deep eye contact as if she had something special to share. However, late into the night, on the day of her birth, a female physician woke me and with no preparation announced in technical terms, without the slightest trace of emotion, that Callie was a Down syndrome baby. I had gone to sleep sublimely happy in one reality, and I was awakened, abruptly and to my mind without compassion, and thrust into a completely different one.
My first conscious thought was, "Why is the Universe doing this to us?" Then my mind screamed in endless white noise. It wasn't until later the following morning—in the clear light of day—that I moved from raw shock to educated awareness: I felt fear, not of the unknown but of the known. I was, after all, a Special Needs educator and had a fairly good idea of what I thought the future would hold for my daughter. By later that afternoon, I touched raw anger. It was mostly directed at God. A bit later it was also directed toward my doctors, two of whom came in together to discuss her Down's. Although they were trying to be well-meaning, I could hardly contain my anger and resentment as they told Ben and me about possible "options"—waiting lists of couples willing to adopt Down's kids or the types of residential homes for placing such children. I had barely begun to process the diagnosis and now they were being presumptuous in ways that were insulting to my true feelings.
I coldly dismissed them. Were they misinterpreting my fear? I looked down at Callie's tiny sleeping form, admittedly afraid, but this was our baby, our blood, entrusted to our care no matter my own fears and disappointments. It wasn't disappointment in her diagnosis I was projecting, although every parent wants their child to come into the world with no difficulties: it was in fact my understanding of this world, which has its definitions of "normal" and doesn't easily make a place for those designated "special." My mind spun ahead to some distant future where I wondered how Callie would be treated, for I had often seen the disparity in the treatment of the children I taught, even by educators. Would she be able to learn the alphabet? Would she be accepted on the school playground? Would the girl-talk in junior high school turn mean? Would she be invited to her senior prom? Would people turn away from her as she walked down the street?
Looking at her now that I had been given the diagnosis, I searched for the many obvious signs of Down syndrome and could find but a few. In that moment, two other thoughts flashed through my mind: she was light years wiser than me and she would not live to be teased at school. I didn't cling to such thoughts in that instant, and I wouldn't understand them as premonitions until the day she died.
Excerpted from Between the Dark and the Daylight by SANDRA CORCORAN Copyright © 2012 by Sandra Corcoran. Excerpted by permission of Balboa Press. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Posted September 15, 2012
She looks around before entering her secret hidden pine forest. She climbs up the sky pine and looks over the dark forest. My home. The heart of darkness will destoy the light and stars, bringing the forest of darkness to rule all cats. She does not want to lead, she does not want a clan. All she wants is for the powerful forest of darkness to rule again. Darkheart chants, making the wind swirl, thick with frost. The wind rushes to all the clans, sending the prophecy darkheart just told to every one of them. Not only starclan can send prophecies and omens, she sneered. She turns to get a view of the clans. A storm appeared out of nowhere, soaking the clans. Lightning cracks and hits a tree, making it fall and erupt in flames. Darkheart laughed. I bet four clan cats just died. A portal appeared and Darkheart walked in, entering the world of the clans.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.