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Pagan Crisis of Faith: Transitions of the Soul

Updated on September 2, 2016
WiccanSage profile image

Sage is a professional writer of 14 years, and a Wiccan of 25 years. Her religious ideas and experiences often inspire her work.

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Maggie was a strong woman, a sagacious Witch, and a devoted mother. I just never expected our friendship to be so short, or for her to continue to be my mentor from beyond the grave.

We first became acquainted online on a Pagan Mom forum. Her tongue-in-cheek sense of humor stood out, making me laugh and think at the same time.

She was deeply committed to her family and her spiritual path. She possessed qualities to which I aspired, and I wished I could get to know her better. With both of us active in the New York City Pagan community, it was only a matter of time before we met.

We ran into each other at a Beltane festival. She had mousy gray hair, unstriking features, and wore an old T-shirt and jeans. At first glance I thought her a "plain Jane," but on closer look I could see that the Goddess within this woman was so close to the surface that She shone through her bright eyes.


Central Park

A Beltane festival in Central Park is where my dear friend and I first met in personl.
A Beltane festival in Central Park is where my dear friend and I first met in personl. | Source

That First Beltane

She proudly introduced me to her 6-year-old daughter. Emily was like the sun- a radiant, golden child- and Maggie was the universe that revolved around her. Whenever Emily spoke, she gave full audience. If Emily were in reach, she tenderly stroked her hair. Emily was music, and Maggie delighted in the dance.

She was nearly twenty years my senior, but a bond cemented upon that first contact. We held hands in the circle as the drummers pounded out a primitive rhythm. Neither of us could take part in the Maypole romp; she had severe asthma, and I was pregnant. Instead, we danced slowly on the outskirts of the pole weavers, she with her maracas and me with my tambourine, going at our own pace. Afterwards, we picnicked under a tree. Maggie patted my swelling belly as I spoke with anticipation of the birth.

"Emily is growing up so fast," she said, her voice the raspy whisperings of an autumn breeze through an aged oak tree. "I want to savor every moment."

Unfortunately, seeds in some grounds fail to germinate. Maggie would have loved more children, but she did not dwell on it, content to enjoy the one she had.

"Nursing is my fondest motherhood memory," she admitted. "When Emily was weaned, we held a private ritual. I offered her a cup of milk, representing the nourishment she had received from me as a baby, and gave her a cookie to represent the sweet nurturing to come. Rites of passage are important; it helped make the transition easier."


Source

Friendship Blooms

We met again on the Summer Solstice in a botanic garden, celebrating the zenith of the Sun Lord's strength in the lush greenery. I complained about my mother, who was opposed to my being a Witch.

"I was raised Jewish," she confided. "We go to Shabbos at my parents' house on Friday nights. Most of my family doesn't know we've been Pagans for nearly 20 years."

"Don't you want them to accept you for who you are?" I asked.

"They do. I'm still the same person I always was. We're not obligated to justify our spiritual journey to anyone. I don't like to put myself in a position where I have to defend my beliefs. The Goddess knows my heart. I don't think She would want me to martyr myself at the expense of a peaceful relationship with my family."

I admired the strength of her convictions. My own insecurities always drove me to be more rebellious and defensive than I was proud to admit.

We talked about her summer plans to take Emily to visit her friend Carrie for a few weeks, and then head to Florida. My summer would be busy, too, as I was entering my eight month of pregnancy. As the shadows claimed the day, we promised to spend more time together when autumn came.


A Song We Sang

It's a Boy!

Source

A Happy Occasion

When next we spoke, I was lying in the hospital with my day-old son in my arms.

"Congratulations!" She sang.

"Thank you," I chirped, happy to hear from her.

I rattled on about my beautiful baby, my C-section, and the terrible hospital food. Of course she wanted to know how the nursing was coming along, and counseled me with La Leche League tips for good post-surgical positions and how to sooth sore nipples. She told me how much she and Emily enjoyed the visit with Carrie.

"We're leaving for Florida the day after tomorrow, and when I get back, I'm coming to see that baby!" she promised.

"I can't wait," I told her.


I Didn't Believe It At First

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Bad News Comes

The morning after I got home from the hospital, I received a phone call from a friend. "I was just on the boards and someone said Maggie died!" she cried, sounding more confused than convinced.

"No," I explained bemused, "I just talked to her. She's in Florida."

"I hope I'm wrong," she replied, still perplexed.

"I'll call you back," I told her, hanging up the phone.

I lunged to the computer. I came to a post from Maggie, timed shortly after I spoke to her, announcing the birth of my child to our friends. Her excitement for me made me smile as I began to tear. Please, I kept thinking, let it be a mistake. Then I found it. A post announcing Maggie's death.

It happened the night after we spoke. Maggie was bathing Emily, when her husband, Dave, heard two cries- a groan of anguish, and a frightened shriek. He rushed to the bathroom to see a pale Maggie on the floor. She thought she had broken a rib, a great pain having burst through her chest. The next few minutes, I was told, were a frenzied blur- a panicked call to 9-1-1, Maggie being swept away by a dizzy hurricane of EMTs, while Dave looked on helplessly. Maggie was gone before they reached the hospital. Her last words were, "Tell Emily I love her."


Depression Sets In

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Crisis of Faith

I had always accepted, even found comfort in, the cycles of life and death. When my own father had died the loss was painful, but I was able to accept it. In Maggie's death, I could find no solace.

I missed my friend. I missed all the things we would never do. I grieved for Emily, deprived of her wonderful mother at such a young age that when she was older, she would barely remember the warmth of her arms. I mourned for Dave, having to sleep ever after next to an empty space that would serve as a reminder of the void in his life. The thought of their days bereft of her tender smiles made my heart ache.

Most of all, I anguished over Maggie's loss. How could the Powers That Be allow such a devoted mother to be ripped away from a child after only six years? Could there be a loving Great Spirit if It could allow Maggie to miss out on the thing she so wanted- to raise her daughter? Maggie had been cheated! She didn't deserve to be snatched away from her family! My faith began to crumble, as I questioned how a demise like this could be considered "natural." Death was a cruel taker, and a Goddess who could let it happen could be nothing more than a compassionless phantom.

For the next couple of months, outbursts of uncontrollable sobbing often overcame me. I could barely sleep at night. If there was a movie or news report on television about a mother or a child dying, I was inconsolable. I couldn't bear to let go of my baby, afraid to put him down for even a nap. I would repeatedly lurch out of bed at night to make sure his stomach was still rising with steady breaths. I was reluctant to let my daughter go out and play. I was afraid to leave the house, paranoid that I would be hit by a car, or fall down the stairs and break my neck. I began writing letters to my children, so that they would have a way to get to know me if I died suddenly.

My doctor wanted to prescribe anti-depressants, but I was afraid they would have an adverse effect and kill me.

Samhain rolled around- the Wiccan Sabbat for honoring the dead. I set a picture of Maggie on my altar. It has always been a night of laughter and tears as we passed on stories of past generations. This year, I was filled with bitterness and despondency, the memories bringing me no smiles or comfort.


A Surprise Visit

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A Mystical Experience

In bed, I tossed and turned for hours until I slipped into a dream. I was in the gardens where I had last seen Maggie. Emily was there, laughing, running through the trees. Suddenly, Maggie was there, too. She looked so beautiful and peaceful, glowing with white light.

"Maggie!" I gasped, "You're here! They told me you died!"

"Not really," she reassured me. "I'm always going to be here. I don't want you to worry. I didn't have to leave Emily; I'm still watching her grow up and I'm not missing out on anything. I'll always be with her."

She hugged me, and I woke up. A floodgate let loose- no heaving or wailing, just a stream of cleansing tears washing my sadness away. I drifted back into a peaceful sleep, for the first time in weeks.

When I rose, I felt more rested than I had in a long time. I was inclined to dismiss my vivid experience as a dream, though it made me feel a calm I hadn't felt since August. The storm of emotions was finally passing.


Life After Death in Wicca

In Wicca, there are no easy answers to what happens after we die. There are no scriptures that tell us definitively about this last great mystery. However, there are many perspectives that are valid within the framework on our faith.

To learn more about those perspectives, you can find them in my article:

Wiccan Views on Life After Death

Crisis Over

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Renewed Faith

I decided to go online, and immediately received an instant message from Maggie's friend, Carrie.

"Last night I had a dream about her," she typed. "She told me that she was okay. She looked so beautiful, so at peace."

My breath was sucked out of me. I began to entertain the notion that it wasn't a dream, that Maggie's spirit was really all right and still with us. How like her it would be to worry so much about her friends that she would cross the veil to comfort us!

I found a renewed faith in the immortality of the soul. Devastating as the loss was for us, Maggie didn't lose out on anything. She was not ripped so viciously from Emily. Her spirit would ever be in the wind blowing through Emily's hair, the sun streaming on her face, and she would continue to embrace the child in an aura of love for the rest of her life.

Maggie's path had crossed mine for a reason. Rather than curse the brevity of it, I began to embrace the joy we shared. Her memory serves as a role model for me, as she was an example of the kind of woman I strive to be. Having her friendship for even a moment was as blessing for which I am grateful.

I held a small, solitary ritual for Maggie. By candlelight, before the curling incense smoke under a waning moon, I cried, sang, and said good-bye.

A wise woman once told me rites of passage are important; they make transitions easier.

What About You

Have you ever had a crisis of faith (whatever your religion)

See results

© 2014 Mackenzie Sage Wright

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    • limpet profile image

      Ian Stuart Robertson 3 years ago from London England

      On this day we have Beltane and it is being celebrated with observance and festivities quite close to my abode here in olde London towne. Officiated by the Wiccan High Priestess and the crowning of the yet to revealed The May Queene promises to be an event heralding in the Northern summer. Incidentally i'm told there will be a lunar eclipse visible from some locations on our planet. Only wish i could have got to Glastonbury in tyme for their observace of Beltane. They really know how to do it there!

    • profile image

      OllieTrolley 3 years ago

      I'm crying. This hub has touched me deeply. I'm sorry for your loss, but I'm happy you've made it through ok. I don't know you, and I've never personally talked to you, but I tend to take on other people's emotions, or the emotions of what I'm reading. I can only imagine your position. I have a friend who's depressed, and I'm always scared for her, that one day it's going to be too much, and she's going to do something drastic. I'm worried, I cry for her. I don't think I could go on if she died, I don't know how I would. My problems and personal issues aside, my apologize for rambling, again. I love your hubs, I feel like they always reach out to me and they're something I can connect and relate to. Thank you.

    • WiccanSage profile image
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      Mackenzie Sage Wright 3 years ago

      I love big gatherings for Beltane, that would be awesome to make it to Glastonbury. Thanks so much for your comments limpet!

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      Mackenzie Sage Wright 3 years ago

      ((hugs Olllie)) thank you sweetie. I am so sorry about your friend; just keep encouraging her to get help, reminding her help is out there... sometimes people feel so hopeless they forget that. I had a friend who was suicidal when I was your age, she did grow out of it and lived on to be an old married lady like me, lol. So keep hope. But you'd be amazed how we can always find a way to go on in the face of a loss. Love your personal comments hon, don't ever worry about rambling. Happy Beltane.

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      OllieTrolley 3 years ago

      I know. It just hurts me, even if I've stopped cutting. It hurts when she does. I have a tendency of taking other people's problems and putting them on myself, so they feel less of it. I help her, and I encourage her to get help as much as I can. I really hope she gets better... I know that hope will get her out of this. Happy Beltane to you as well. I feel like I annoy you with my rambling... I can go on for hours about certain subjects.

    • Eiddwen profile image

      Eiddwen 3 years ago from Wales

      So very interesting and well written.

      Thanks for sharing.

      Eddy.

    • WiccanSage profile image
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      Mackenzie Sage Wright 3 years ago

      No, you don't annoy me at all! Really, I enjoy hearing from you. But you have to remember that you can do your best to help others when you yourself are at your best. There are people who are just born to be nurturing souls (my daughter is like that with her friends) and it's so easy to give so much away of yourself and take on the pain of others. This can hurt you in the long run if you're not careful; but if you learn to balance yourself and protect yourself, you can help others without it being at your own expense, understand? You need to take care of you, and in turn you can do more for those you love who need you. :-)

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      Mackenzie Sage Wright 3 years ago

      Thanks so much Eddy, thanks for stopping by.

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      OllieTrolley 3 years ago

      I know, but I can't help myself. Someone hurts, I want to do everything I can to help them. Even if I don't know them. I'm happy to help others, even if it means hurting myself, I'd rather others be happy. I find happiness when I help others. It's hard, but it makes me feel good most of the time. I'm just trying my best. I'll survive, no matter what, I must survive for others.

    • CMHypno profile image

      CMHypno 3 years ago from Other Side of the Sun

      What a beautiful story WiccanSage. Life seems to be a bit like being on a roller coaster - we go down, then up and then plunge again. I'm glad your friend in spirit came to you in a dream and helped you move on in your life journey.

    • Lady Guinevere profile image

      Debra Allen 3 years ago from West By God

      I just loved this testimony of life after the physical has perished. I have had 3 different kinds of NDE but the one that was the most remembered changed my life and my beliefs. We never die as in going to sleep and not doing anything. We just shed our body when it becomes useless. My heart goes out to you and to Maggie too. There are special people out there that teach us about our selves. Yes I split it up like that for a reason. our body is not our true self but when we use to gain knowledge and to have senses that we do not have when we are spirit. You have a wonderful guide and companion on the other side of that window. We also have what are called soul groups in that we are a group of souls that are working together from both sides, not just there and not just here. I feel that some have to go to the other side so they can help those here better. They are less encombered by a heavy body. You would not believe how I found this out about how heavy the body really is.

      Peace and love.

    • blueheron profile image

      Sharon Vile 3 years ago from Odessa, MO

      We have so many experiences of loss, illness, suffering, injustice, and death that don't seem consistent with our concepts of a benevolent deity. It is difficult to find a satisfactory explanation. To glimpse the continuation of life after physical death--or some of those other glimpses of other realms--can at least allow you to keep some kind of faith. I've had these experiences myself. I do have to wonder if I'm nuts. But what can you go by, other than what you've seen with your own eyes, what you've experienced?

    • blueheron profile image

      Sharon Vile 3 years ago from Odessa, MO

      Lady Guinevere, I too have had an NDE. It was nearly 40 years ago. The experience was shattering--for me, anyway. You've been to a place that is inexpressibly beautiful, so it takes awhile for the impression to pass off enough that your return to our world becomes more or less bearable. We're talking about crying for a couple of months, because you have to be HERE.

    • WiccanSage profile image
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      Mackenzie Sage Wright 3 years ago

      Hi Ollie; You know this reminds me of a conversation I had with a friend once who was a stewardess on air planes. We were joking about the speech they have to give before a flight. One of the things they have to explain is how the oxygen masks drop down in case of emergency. They tell you that you have to put on your mask first, then put it on small children or people who need help. I said that was silly-- if something like that happened and my kids were next to me I would want to put the mask on them first and make sure they were safe. She said I can't save anyone if I'm pass out in my seat-- we could all suffocate.

      You definitely sound like a survivor; talk to you soon pal.

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      Mackenzie Sage Wright 3 years ago

      Great way of putting it CM, thanks so much for stopping by. I appreciate your comments.

    • WiccanSage profile image
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      Mackenzie Sage Wright 3 years ago

      Thank you Lady, you put it so eloquently. I know science hasn't "proven" life after death, and I don't tend to take myths literally about an afterlife, but there seems to be something. I've had too many experiences to just ignore the possibility, and so have millions of others. I would love to hear your experience some day if you ever feel like sharing any of it. Thanks!

    • WiccanSage profile image
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      Mackenzie Sage Wright 3 years ago

      Blueheron, I have been there with you. I have had experiences in which I've had to wonder if it was in my imagination. I know people look at me funny when I say this, considering I am religious, believe in many Gods, and practice Witchcraft-- but I'm a skeptic by nature. I question everything and doubt everything even though I try to remain open to possibilities. I think it's good to question ourselves, though. Thanks for stopping by.

    • limpet profile image

      Ian Stuart Robertson 3 years ago from London England

      Comments are very touching and i feel a sense of unity here on this site. I have been through the grieving process and it takes time there have been times when i felt as an empty shell but can i offer a saying i gleaned along the journey 'We are not humans on a spiritual journey but spirits on a life journey!'

      Bless

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      Mackenzie Sage Wright 3 years ago

      Thanks, limpet. I feel that community on Hubpages too. That's a beautiful saying, it really resonates with me. Thanks for sharing!

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 3 years ago from England

      Hi Wiccan, I read every word and cried through most of it, how awful and yet you received that dream which is wonderful. I lost my best friend about 6 weeks ago, and like you, I keep crying, but I am just so glad to have known her. I lost my other close friend two years ago, it is hard, but I really understood how you feel, I am glad you saw her, nell

    • Eira Losee Fukuda profile image

      Eira L'osee-Fukuda 3 years ago from California

      What a beautiful hub you've created; not only have you shared your own pain and healing experience [with which I can certainly relate in many ways], but as evidenced in the comments, you have facilitated the healing process for others as well. Every blessing to you and yours. *hugs*

    • ESPeck1919 profile image

      ESPeck1919 3 years ago from Minneapolis, MN

      This is so beautiful. Thanks for sharing!

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      Mackenzie Sage Wright 3 years ago

      Thanks, Nell Rose. I'm so sorry, I remember reading about you losing your friend and your beautiful tribute to her. I agree, it is so hard, and as I was only about 28/29 at the time I had yet to experience loss, other than my grandparents who lived into their 80s. Loss of a friend, of someone young, it came as a shock. That dream was a blessing and I am so grateful to her for all she's done for me.

    • WiccanSage profile image
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      Mackenzie Sage Wright 3 years ago

      Thank you so much Eira Losee Fukuda; I appreciate that. I think when we relate to each other's experiences we can all draw strength and support from each other.

    • WiccanSage profile image
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      Mackenzie Sage Wright 3 years ago

      Thank you ESPeck, and thanks for commenting. I appreciate it.

    • Eira Losee Fukuda profile image

      Eira L'osee-Fukuda 3 years ago from California

      Yes, I agree completely, WiccanSage. The timing of my reading this was also auspicious for me, since I've just been notified that a dear teacher of mine, still quite young, is dying in hospice. It can be such a shock, the sudden arrival of unexpected grief; when I heard, I was reminded of what I read here, and it was a comfort to me. So thanks again.

    • WiccanSage profile image
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      Mackenzie Sage Wright 3 years ago

      Thank you Eira; my condolences for your friend's untimely demise. I'm glad if you could even find a small comfort here.

    • CarolynEmerick profile image

      Carolyn Emerick 3 years ago

      Sage, I enjoy many of your articles, but this one stands out for many reasons. First of all, it is a BEAUTIFUL tribute to a beautiful friend. Just in reading it, as a stranger, I can feel how healing it was for you to write this. To remember her, and share the story, share what drew you to her as a person, and express the shock at hearing the news, and the terrible grief you went through. And then that moment of peace when she visited you and you knew she was ok and still living... just somewhere else.

      Your talent as a writer really shines through as well. The subject is moving, but your telling of it, your way with words, and ability to make the reader feel like they can connect to the story really adds to this simply as a good piece of writing. I don't mean to dismiss the emotion of the story by saying that, but I wanted to point out that your talent and the way you told this story made it a pleasure to read.

      I also wanted to mention that among the upvote and checking the beautiful box, that I also checked "useful." I usually don't tell writers which boxes I choose! But "useful" seems odd for this one so I wanted to explain. This is obviously something that most of us will experience at least once in life - the sudden and unexpected loss of someone too young to die. And unfortunately, many pagans don't have the support structure that adherents of other religions have. A lot of us are solitary. Or if we have groups to attend, it's not the same as a church with a headquarters that meets every week (sometimes throughout the week) with leaders and counselors and a large group of people to rally around for support, and even smaller study groups where you can really talk with people who share your faith. So because we don't have that structure, it can be difficult for us to handle trauma, and it can cause a crisis of faith. So it's important to share stories like this so that we can learn from one another and understand we are not alone.

      Giving it a share on the FB page I often share your articles on, it's Elder's Grove, and I know people there will appreciate this. Thank you for sharing this experience with us.

    • WiccanSage profile image
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      Mackenzie Sage Wright 3 years ago

      Carolyn, thank you so much for your kind words. This was actually something very important for me to get out, to get just right. And if anyone can gain any sense of comfort or camaraderie from it, and Maggie's lesson touches others through my writing, that would be the best tribute I could give her.

      I appreciate your sharing it, and I agree with you that a lot of Pagans are still lacking in that community and support-- the Internet has been a real blessing to the Pagan community because without it so many of us would go a lifetime without ever really getting to know another Pagan.

      Thanks again, I plan to check out your group if you don't mind.

    • bethperry profile image

      Beth Perry 3 years ago from Tennesee

      What a lovely tribute to your dear friend. I am very sorry for your loss, but am glad you have many touching memories of her to share. May the Goddess watch over you and Maggie's other dear ones till you meet once again in the sunshine land.

    • WiccanSage profile image
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      Mackenzie Sage Wright 3 years ago

      Thank you Bethperry, that was beautiful. I appreciate your comments.

    • Lacey Taplin profile image

      Lacey Taplin 3 years ago from Highlands Ranch, CO

      Thank you for sharing such a beautiful post and experience.

    • WiccanSage profile image
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      Mackenzie Sage Wright 3 years ago

      Thank you Lacey, you're very kind. I appreciate your comment.

    • MizBejabbers profile image

      MizBejabbers 3 years ago

      What a beautiful, sad, beautiful story. I am so glad to know that Maggie still watches over her daughter and her friends. The chant is just beautiful. In this patriarchal world, Western religions just don’t accept that the “God” of the Earth is female. Love and light to you.

    • WiccanSage profile image
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      Mackenzie Sage Wright 3 years ago

      Thanks MizB; so am I ~ I truly believe Maggie has found peace and joy and is still with her family. And that brought peace for me, and gave me hope for everyone else. It's such a pleasure to live in this day and age of the Pagan revival, when so many more people are learning to recognize the Goddess, or the divine feminine principle in the universe! Love and light to you as well.

    • DzyMsLizzy profile image

      Liz Elias 22 months ago from Oakley, CA

      It is emotions such as you first experienced that turned me into an atheist long ago. When I see such stories posted online, it takes every bit of my self-control to change the page and refrain from typing something snarky along the order of "there's that 'loving god' for you," or "how's that prayer stuff working for ya?" (I do say those things aloud, as does my husband, when we are seeing it on TV, and there is no one present but ourselves.)

      I just cannot reconcile any kind of caring deity with such tragedy. I have never had any 'visits' from the beyond, though I wish I could. I guess I don't have that particular gene set to allow me to be a 'sensitive' to spirits.

      However, your story is beautiful, and I am glad you found peace.

      Voted up, awesome, beautiful and interesting.

    • WiccanSage profile image
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      Mackenzie Sage Wright 22 months ago

      Thanks so much Lizzy. I don't think theism/atheism are a choice. I know atheists just can't turn on beliefs, and I know I can't just turn mine off. I think I was just very angry at the time, but overall I've come to terms with the cycles of life and death and don't see them as the result of a fickle deities hand pointing at us. Thanks so much for commenting.

    • profile image

      aqua man 22 months ago

      Thankyou for sharing yours and Maggie's story. It was living, poignant and uplifting. There certainly does seem to be people that we meet on our journey that we form an instant bond with.(karma?) Anyway, I also read your wiccan beliefs and found them intertesting. I am an astrologer, and although we would probably disagree on many things, acceptance of someone elses beliefs must be a sign of maturity. Many thanks for your post.

    • WiccanSage profile image
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      Mackenzie Sage Wright 22 months ago

      Thanks for your comment, Aqua man. Yes, there was a definite connection, and I learned something precious from her.

      I'm always fine with disagreement... everyone's entitled to their opinion. I love debate, but I really don't get heated about it, just find it mentally stimulating. But beyond that I prefer to focus on things we agree on rather than disagreements. Live & let live.

      I appreciate your comment!

    • limpet profile image

      Ian Stuart Robertson 17 months ago from London England

      I conclude crisis to be very much part of our lives. After all we are spirits on a physical journey, not the other way round.

    • limpet profile image

      Ian Stuart Robertson 17 months ago from London England

      I conclude crisis to be very much part of our lives. After all we are spirits on a physical journey, not the other way round.

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