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An Impeccable Death

by Bill Meacham on October 28th, 2013

Katy MeachamMy daughter died recently. In this essay I tell the story of her death, not to evoke your sympathy or condolences or to induce you to feel sorry for me – although those things are perfectly normal responses – but because there is a philosophical point to be made. I had communication with her after her bodily death. I have reason to believe that I know some things about what happened to her and what she did after that event. In this essay I present the evidence for those startling assertions. Please reserve your judgment until you have read to the end.

Just the facts

On September 15, 2013, Katherine Claire Hiles (her name from a previous marriage) was driving west out of Nelson, British Columbia on Route 3A, a two-lane road, with her wife, Mireille Evans. At 3:26 p.m. about 15 kilometers from Nelson near the intersection with Curtis Road a vehicle crossed the center line and struck Katy’s car, killing her instantly. She was taken to a nearby hospital but could not be resuscitated. No alcohol or drugs were involved. Mireille was bruised and scratched, but otherwise physically unharmed. The other driver also sustained injuries, but lived. Police say that he does not remember what happened. At the last instant Katy turned her car to the right, taking the full brunt of the impact on herself and sparing Mireille. Police say that a trained race-car driver could not have avoided the collision. Katy’s death was immediate, and there is no reason to believe that she suffered any pain.

I did not find out about this until the next day, when some officials from the Texas Attorney General’s Office showed up at my door to tell me. I immediately called my wife, who hurried home, and we called a few friends.

Before I tell the rest of the story, I need to give some background about Katy. 31 years old at the time, she had been studying Native American spirituality for several years with a group of women in British Columbia. Specifically she studied the ways of the Lakota, in the tradition of Wallace Black Elk. Her teacher, Kat McCooeye, is a woman of Celtic, Huron and African ancestry who was raised by Native peoples in northern BC and who has been authorized in the lineage of Wallace Black Elk to teach the tradition. Katy was deeply committed to this path, very knowledgeable about its teachings and practices, and a member of a strong community of women and men who participated regularly in sweat lodges and other ceremonies.

An extraordinary communication

My wife had an appointment that day with a spiritual healer from Chile. I do not have permission to reveal the healer’s name (not that she has refused; I just haven’t asked, as she has gone back to Chile), so I will call her M. M speaks very little English, and our friend Casey translated. M had been told about Katy’s death and told me to come into the treatment room as well. There were thus four people present: M, Casey Bledsoe, Patricia Michael and I, Bill Meacham. Neither Patricia nor I had ever met M before.

M said Katy was in good hands, with a grandfather figure who was helping her through her surprise and confusion.

Now, unbeknownst to me, the previous day just after Katy’s death her lodge sisters had come to the hospital where Katy and Mireille had been taken. One of the women, Jessica Bamford, has told me that they could sense that Katy was still present and a bit confused. One of them said to her, “Katy, darling, you’re dead.” Katy replied, “Oh. That’s why I can see Grandpa.”

None of us in the treatment room had any knowledge that that exchange had taken place. Here are two entirely independent reports that Katy was in the presence of a grandfather figure after her body had died.

(By the way, I, as her father, am extremely grateful that she was greeted and cared for by a wise, competent elder male.)

M then said that Katy said something about running. M asked whether I had run with Katy when she was young. I was puzzled and said that we had climbed trees together, but had not run. M said no, there was something about running. Then I remembered a game I used to play with Katy when she was little, four, five and six years old or thereabouts, a game we called Run-Past. I would sit on the couch, and she would run past me as I tried to grab her. Of course I acted quite clumsy and failed most of the time, and she would shriek with laughter as she got away. Occasionally I would catch her and toss her around and nuzzle her, humorously saying I was going to eat the little girl. It was lots of fun.

There was no way M could have known that. There was no way Casey, our translator could have known that.

M then told me that Katy said she had gone first and that she had promised to take care of me when I died, but she had deceived me.

A year earlier, on a previous trip to Canada, I had talked to Katy about my own end of life. I told her that at some point I would most likely get old and die and that I wanted her to be with me when that happened. She said of course she would, but asked me please not to do it any time soon.

Now Katy was telling me that she was not going to care for me as I died. Again, there was no way that M, whom I had never met before, could have known about my conversation with Katy a year earlier, nor could Casey, whom I had not told about it.

Then Katy, through M, told Patricia some things and said that we would meet again. At the end, Katy said that she was trespassing for this brief time to talk to us, implying that she was breaking a rule against talking to those of us still in our physical bodies. The conversation with her ended.

Explanations

How can we explain these messages that seem to have come from the dead? To me it is obvious that they were indeed messages from Katy, who was still alive in some form after her physical body died. Materialists deny the possibility of such a thing. They say that the mind is merely a byproduct of the brain, and when the brain dies one’s mind – one’s subjectivity, one’s personhood – dies with it. To maintain their view, I suppose, they would have to say that what I heard from M was coincidence or dissembling. That seems unlikely to me. Or that I am lying, which I’m not.

There is no way to know with the certainty that objective science gives us which interpretation is correct. And even if we grant that it is more likely that Katy really did talk to us after her physical death than that the healer somehow guessed what she had no way of knowing, that does not tell us for sure about anybody else’s death. We have only one data point, one communication that purports to come from beyond the physical world that science investigates so well. From this one data point we cannot confidently say that everyone lives on after physical death. Maybe only some people do. Katy had undergone rigorous training. Maybe only those with such training live on.

We can’t ethically do a replicable scientific experiment. We can’t pick a group of people who have had spiritual training and a control group who haven’t and kill them all suddenly and see which ones survive on the other side and in what way.

There is some additional evidence for the assertion that at least some people live on after physical death. There are numerous other stories like mine, of people who had physically died communicating with the living, revealing things that the person facilitating the communication could not have known. No doubt many such stories are the result of wishful thinking, delusion or outright charlatanry. But all of them? We could find fault with each one, but the likelihood of lots of people all coming up with the same falsehood seems slim.(1)

In any case, we do have objective verification of my story. Four people, Casey, Patricia, I and M herself, heard what M reported that Katy said. Katy’s mother and sister can verify that I used to play Run-Past with her. Patricia can verify that I had talked to Katy about my end of life. And we have two independent reports, separated in time by almost a day and in space by two thousand miles, of Katy’s being in the presence of a grandfather figure. I am not making this up.

What we have here is some data that contradict the materialistic dominant scientific paradigm.(2) I have speculated elsewhere about what might replace that paradigm(3), but discussing ontology is not my aim in this essay. My aim is just to tell the story and see what it might imply for us, the living.

What follows includes some things told to me by people in Katy’s lodge. I am inclined to believe what they say about her. Because M’s independent report of her being with a grandfather corroborates their testimony that they heard her say she could see Grandpa, I assume the truth of their other reports as well.

The rest of the story

I am extremely grateful, after I had received the shocking news from some guys I did not know, that Katy spoke to me and Patricia. I am completely convinced that she was there in some form, after her physical form was dead, to talk to us.

Patricia and I went up to Canada. There was a ceremony of washing the body, there was a cremation, there was a big public memorial and celebration of her life, all of which was helpful in dealing with our grief.

She died on a Sunday, and we got up there late on Wednesday. Earlier that day, four days after Katy’s death, the women and men in her lodge had done a ceremony and had prayed and sung sacred songs to help the soul pass on from its intermediate state to the next. They said that at that time Katy passed on and became a spirit, specifically an eagle spirit. The eagle is very important to her lodge and to the tradition of Wallace Black Elk. She had been learning the ways of the eagle; and on the fourth day, she became a spirit being in the form of an eagle.

Katy tending fireSeven days after her death I participated in an inipi, a sweat lodge ceremony, at which Kat McCooeye was the water-pourer, the person who leads the ceremony. This was to have been Katy’s first time pouring water, the most important role in the ceremony. Katy usually tended the fire that heats the rocks. She wasn’t there, so I did that job.

The sweat lodge is found all over North and Central America. In Mexico it is a permanent structure made of stone, called temazcal. In the Lakota tradition it is a rounded hut made of saplings over which are draped blankets or animal skins. You kneel down to crawl in, then hot rocks are brought in from the fire, the door flap is closed, and you are in complete darkness. The leader pours water on the rocks, creating steam and making it very hot in there, beats on the drum, and leads the group in prayer and sacred songs. It’s very intense. My experience has been that in that extreme physical environment whatever is not essential in your mind goes away; and when you pray you speak from a very deep, authentic place in yourself.

There are several rounds, in between which they open the door. In the third round they sang songs to call in the spirits. Kat said that the eagle spirits would come in, and Katy would be among them. I waited with eager anticipation for some profound feeling or sensation, but none came. Then I saw in my mind’s eye her face, as if from a distance. That was nice; that was good.

We did that, we came home, and several days later our Sufi group had a chanting ceremony, called zikr. I typically drum for the zikr on my dumbek, and this evening I was deep into drumming while my friend played guitar and the group chanted various sacred phrases. I was absorbed, in a sort of trance, concentrating only on the drumming. I idly thought of Katy as an eagle; and I saw in my mind an eagle flying around, circling in the air. It circled closer and closer and then came and looked me right in the eye. Its eye was a golden yellow. It looked at me and then went on. At the time I didn’t think about it, but the next day it occurred to me that Katy was telling me, “Dad, I’m over here now. I’m in this form now.”

(And by the way, the eyes of a mature eagle are yellow.(4) I looked it up.)

In the sweat lodge, Kat had said “Katy is here. Katy says that she’s really happy, because she’s an eagle sprit and she gets to serve the people 24-7. She doesn’t have to sleep.”

So in the space of seven days Katy died instantly, was met by grandfather, learned what she needed to learn, became an eagle spirit, appeared in the sweat lodge, and expressed happiness at being able to be of continuous service. And later appeared to me in my semi-trance to reassure me that she was still around.

Well done, Katy!

I am astonished and delighted that she made the transition so quickly and smoothly, and to such a good place. And that her idea of a good time after death is to be of service continuously. She found herself an excellent gig! I am extraordinarily proud of that girl. She was prepared. She did it, impeccably.

I am proud of her. And, I can’t tell her that. She’s a spirit and I’m here. I am a mammal. I need touch. I want to hug my daughter and feel her and look her in the eye and tell her how proud I am of her. But I can’t do that. I am very grateful that she contacted us after her physical death and that I know what happened to her on the other side. I am simultaneously elated that she made such a spectacularly successful transition and heartbroken that she’s not here any more.

Now what?

In the Phaedo Plato has Socrates say that the true philosopher should be cheerful in the face of death. “Those who really apply themselves in the right way to philosophy are … preparing themselves for dying and death,” he says.(5) When I was an undergraduate I thought the idea quite morbid and unappealing, but now I see the wisdom in it. We probably can’t all go in such an elegant way as Katy, nor to such an elevated state of being. But it is plausible to think that we will all continue in some form after the physical body dies.

Just as there is a being who is you on this side, a subjective state of mind, a point of view that acts, so there will be a you on the other side. You won’t have all the physical stuff you have here. But you will have memories, feelings, attitudes, a point of view and your own way of being in the world, your own way of approaching and interacting with whatever surrounds you. Your world will be different, but you will be there. What qualities of character would help you in that condition? You’ll still be you. What kind of person would you like to be?

Appendix: How I deal with it emotionally

One of my teachers said that how long it takes grief to heal is a function, not of the amount of time that has passed, but of the quantity of tears that have been shed. I have been fortunate to have ample opportunity to cry, in fact to bawl my heart out. That’s what ceremonies are for, and time with friends. As I say in more detail in the chapter of my book titled “The Overlooked Adaptation,” the discharge of painful emotion is a healing process.(6) It is our body-mind-spirit’s way of removing tensions and mental pollutants that get in the way of exuberant enjoyment of life. The sweat lodge in particular was a good place for crying away grief, as well as pounding away rage and shaking away terror. For a time, in between bouts of emotional release my mood was grey. I was surrounded by gloom, and I knew it, but it seemed even less interesting to try to do or feel something else. That gloom has now lifted, and I find myself with enjoyable things to do and fun people to be with. And then the tears come again. I don’t try to push them away, nor do I try to prolong them. I just let them take their course, and after a while I raise my head to the present again. All we have is now.

Notes

(1) Grimes, The Fun of Dying, p. 22.

(2) Wikipedia, “Paradigm shift.”

(3) Meacham, “Being Human in a Conscious Universe” and “Matter, Mind and Metaphysics.”

(4) Nye, “Bald Eagle Frequently Asked Questions.”

(5) Plato, Phaedo, 64a.

(6) Meacham, How To Be An Excellent Human, pp. 117-127.

Bibliography

Grimes, Roberta. The Fun of Dying: Find Out What Really Happens Next. Greater Reality Publications (http://greaterreality.com), 2010.

Meacham, Bill. “Being Human in a Conscious Universe.” Online publication http://bmeacham.com/whatswhat/BeingHumanConsciousUniverse.htm.

Meacham, Bill. How To Be An Excellent Human. Austin: Earth Harmony, 2013. Available at http://bmeacham.com.

Meacham, Bill. “Matter, Mind and Metaphysics.” Online publication http://www.bmeacham.com/blog/?p=951.

Nye, Peter. “Bald Eagle Frequently Asked Questions.” Online publication http://www.learner.org/jnorth/tm/eagle/ExpertAnswer05.html as of 22 October 2013.

Plato. Phaedo. In The Collected Dialogues of Plato, 2nd printing. Ed. Edith Hamilton and Huntington Cairns. New York, Pantheon Books, 1963.

Wikipedia. “Paradigm shift.” Online publication https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paradigm_shift as of 22 October 2013.

From → Philosophy

17 Comments
  1. Sofia permalink

    Wow! What a gorgeous telling. Congratulations to you and Katie and you did tell her, in the living heart of the ONE..there is no where else to be.All Honor on the Journey.

  2. Thank you for sharing this amazing tribute beloved one. I live in western Canada and my daughter has recently died May 8th just prior to her 50th birthday. She would have been fifty. Her Sufi name was/is Tajalia.

    http://obits.dignitymemorial.com/dignity-memorial/obituary.aspx?n=KimberlyStanley&lc=3645&pid=164775089&mid=5529035&locale=en_CA
    I hope you can open the link. Much love
    Qahira/fran

  3. Always the beloved pass and that past is always present. Your heartfelt telling of what is being echoed is gaining volume and what we now can share is the eternal now is in our hearts, in community, in a tribes ritual.
    Memory of our kin is a sacrament that is a legacy that lives on and on. The echo never to fade. This is why we can hear our beloveds. Those of us who have lost their children can be the witness in community and chant the sounds of LOVE. Your story is a love story . Namaste Said

  4. steve permalink

    What an extraordinary narrative. Thank you for sharing this very personal experience.

  5. Tears in my eyes, assurances throughout, how we live, so we die, so we are in what comes next… thank you for the heartrich reminder to be mindful of what I prepare for. Sandy

  6. Jeffrey Stukuls permalink

    Thanks for sharing Bill. While I’m sorry for your (physical) loss, I’m grateful for your meaning-filled and valuable experiences. By the way, I think there is a way that these experiences can/will be ‘proven’ scientifically, though their explanation might be different than our current interpretation. More about that when we meet up next…

  7. Amina Wolfe permalink

    Ata, thank you for sharing such a profoundly intimate experience, but we have shared many such moments, none so tragic yet soaring as this one, but many moments of love and gratitude and wonder that keeps you and Alia in my heart always and I was so happy to hear you are having fun again. I was not in town for the memorial but thought deeply of you all.

  8. Walia Dungan permalink

    Hello, old friend: I have thought of you many times since our days in Austin together, in the 70’s. Now, at this time of great sorrow, I send you loving and caring energy. May your hearts be united with your sweet child. Many blessings, Walia (Smigaj) Dungan

  9. steven permalink

    Bill, my sympathies. I have a daughter the same age. Have you read eben alexanders book, Proof of Heaven? IT is so much more than another book on NDEs. Also Irreducible Mind by Kelly has 50-page report of science on NDE and OOBE, treated fairly with academic rigor and bibliography.
    steven,
    Bagan, Myanmar

  10. Julie Bieri permalink

    So Beautiful Bill. So so sorry I did not make the Sufi gathering as a previous planned event prevented me from attending. My daughter helped Alia at Texas Coffee Traders when she came in to get things for the Sufi Gathering and I asked her why she didn’t say anything. She said she did not know what to say to her considering the circumstances. She also said she remembered Katie from high school as they graduated together. I know Katie met you in the sweat lodge as I have had an experience myself meeting the Elders in a Sweat Lodge led by Godfrey Chips also in the Lakota tradition.

  11. pete zimmerman permalink

    bill thanks for sharing your journey. I am sorry for your loss, and grateful for your experiences after her passing. I too see things the way you do. there is much under heaven and earth we do not understand. we should get together sometime soon.

  12. Laura permalink

    Thanks for sharing Bill, this beautiful afterlife experience. So happy to hear she is an eagle spirit providing service, soaring and alive in spirit. And thanks for letting us know how you are doing. I hope to come visit you and Patricia soon.

  13. nicole lewis permalink

    Hello Bill! I stumbled across your heartfelt essay by chance…I wish you strength as you live what must be the most difficult human experience. I was looking up temascal or sweat lodge on google. When I saw your article I was drawn to the title. And I agree 100% with the living in preparation for death…not in a morbid way…but living as if each day were our last, making every encounter as meaningful and loving as possible. I was impressed by this idea at the Twilight Brigade training. I would very much appreciate If you would contact me with M from Chile. I myself am on a spiritual path and am now seeking fellowship and training with special people like her. I live in Chile so it would be even more special to me if you contacted us! …Again wishing you and your wife comfort. Nicole

  14. H_Preston permalink

    First of all…sorry for your loss. Being in the philosophical group and knowing you somewhat, this spiritual side of you comes as a surprise…a pleasant one.

    My father died in October of 2014 with Hospice at my house and it was a very enriching experience for me. We (my father and I…we are of the same belief when it comes to after life and death) made a deal before he died, that he would leave a white feather in the kitchen if he made a safe journey and if it is possible to mobilize the material world from beyond.

    So far nothing….but that could just mean he’s having a good time in his new place and will get around to it later or it’s not possible to mobilize the material world from his standpoint…or many other explanations. But I KNOW he will leave a white feather in my kitchen …if he can.

  15. Catherine permalink

    Dear Bill,

    I’m so glad and grateful that I found this website. You see, I only learned of my friend Katy’s death last fall and I was heartbroken to hear of it. Though we were not close like some of her beloved friends at Naropa, I always considered her my friend and admired her deeply.

    Katy was, and I believe still is, wise, graceful, loving, deeply magical and a wonderful friend. There was something comforting about her that always stilled the wildness in me to some extent when I was next to her. Her heart was pure and her presence inspiring.

    We lost touch after we graduated, went our separate ways. We would check in every so often and sometime in the last year I realized that I hadn’t heard from her in awhile. I was chatting with another friend from Naropa several months ago and I mentioned to her that one of our favourite teachers had passed and she then noted that Katy had died. I was shocked. Shocked that so many years had gone by where I had my head down birthing and raising babies and had missed the death of a friend.

    I’m sorry for your loss and I’m happy to read of your journey in healing. I am not surprised in the least that Katy was following her spiritual path so adamantly when she passed. She was a true seeker in life. I know I will think of her when I see eagles from now on.

    Wishing you, and all of Katy’s dearest, deep peace and connection with your source, Bill.

  16. Anne permalink

    Dear Bill,

    Thank you of your wise and intuitive words. I read you on Quora……..may you and your wife / your family and friends have a good year this year and for many more.
    You have given me much to think about. I like thinking of your meditative times a lot.

    Kindest hello

  17. Paul Dion permalink

    I have a friend in Italy with similar experience.
    You may also read my answer on Quora.
    Finally, my father died in 1960. He and I together with my elder son whom Dad had never met during earthly life are still “together”.

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