“We are all captive to death – to transitions in and out of this world, and we are forever trying to understand what mysteries lie beyond the veil. This is what makes Kathleen Westberg’s Dying is Weird: A Journey of Enlightenment such a compelling, humble and beautifully authentic book. Kathleen’s life story and her encounters with death take us to the edge of this veil where we can sense some of the truth and wonder and mystery of what connects us to the afterlife and the feeling that our loved ones are still with us, beyond the limits of physical perception.”
From the Foreward, by James Ainsworth
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Becca Chopra, a holistic health and nutritional counselor, yoga and meditation instructor and author of The Chakra Diaries, Chakra Secrets, Balance Your Chakras, Balance Your Life and The Chakra Energy Diet was impressed with Dying is Weird: A Journey of Enlightenment and conducted this interview with Kathleen.
In sharing her memoir, Dying is Weird: A Journey of Enlightenment, Kathleen Westberg brings us into her life as she loses loved ones and then begins searching for meaning in life and death. Her story resonated with me as my own mother is now under hospice care and shows dementia symptoms very close to what Westberg’s mother experienced. And my mother also feels my grandmother’s presence in her room now – weird, as Westberg says.
How can we feel more of a connection to our loved ones during and after their lives? Well, Westberg shares some answers she found through the work of Edgar Cayce, which stirred her soul and led her to continue her studies of metaphysics and spirituality. His ability to communicate with his friends and relatives that had died, she explained, helped her to broaden her views on keeping in touch with loved ones after they have passed on.
While she always showed some heightened psychic abilities, once Westberg begins studying and attending holistic healing conferences, there is no stopping her in sharing her Healing Touch, interpretation of dreams and precognition of events.
This book is a sweet, quick read that makes us feel we are not alone, but all connected. After finishing it, you feel like you are part of Westberg’s family, and you are. Her experiences help one believe that life isn’t as “random and chaotic as previously thought,” and makes death seem “more like an adventure to look forward to than something to fear.”
Kathleen Westberg is a life member of the Cayce group, A.R.E., The Association of Research and Enlightenment. Here, she answers my questions about her book…
Becca: Why is dying “weird?”
Kathleen: My experiences with the death of loved ones has been at times so perplexing, befuddling and fascinating, that I knew I wanted to write a book about what I experienced. The title of my book, Dying Is Weird, comes from a personal experience in which I witnessed the transition of a family member and her words to me. The word “weird” according to Webster’s Dictionary has several definitions: supernatural, odd, strange, uncanny and magical just to name a few. So with the definitions and my personal story it all fit into what I thought was the perfect book title. Death to me was weird also, because of the experience I had when I was eleven. It touched me in a deep way and awakened me to some of my own perceptions that would stay with me throughout my entire life. In that sense, dying is weird because it is something that has been a part of me from a young age, and it transcends time and space.
Becca: Why do you think people in our culture are unprepared for death?
Kathleen: Years ago, death was looked at much differently. I’m not saying that the grief was any less, but before the age of medicine, the mortality rate was very high and everyone suffered the loss of loved ones, sometimes at relatively young ages. Children were apt to die from illnesses that are now preventable. Multiple families lived together and relatives lived in close proximity always lending support and comfort. I feel they had a different understanding about life and death. Births as well as deaths were witnessed in the home which made both a more natural experience. Society has changed dramatically. The natural cycle of birth and death is no longer witnessed at home. Families don’t have the commitment to care for the elderly so the aging population becomes more compartmentalized and the elderly die sometimes distances from their loved ones. We have also become more materialistic, with more of a focus on money and material possessions. Also, people have a harder time accepting something if they can’t measure it or quantify it. I feel by learning to cultivate or develop our clairvoyant perceptions we can become more aware of that dimension of existence, called death, and our experiences might not seem so out-of-the-ordinary. Working at being more loving and learning to forgive and reconcile relationships and maintaining that loving awareness, I think would help us all be better prepared for death.
Becca: What was the biggest lesson you learned in your metaphysical studies?
Kathleen: Maybe the most important thing I’ve learned is that my intuition and spiritual understanding has grown in direct relationship to my studies. I have learned so much from making the effort to take different classes and study with a variety of teachers. There have been so many teachers in my life that have shared their talents and spiritual abilities and it seems I always take something very worthwhile from each one. I am fascinated by energy work and the energy of the world, be it in a house of worship, someone’s home, out in nature and of course the energy of others. The more I put effort into those areas, the more aware I become of these spiritual dimensions and the more I am able to help others heal and grow. When we make a conscious effort to develop our metaphysical awareness, the creator can work through us and it then becomes a natural attunement to use at will.
Becca: What do you hope readers take away from your book?
Kathleen: I want people to understand that death is not the end of life – that we are transformed by death, and somehow our consciousness or awareness carries on in a spiritual dimension or existence. By opening our minds to receiving messages through our dreams, and through our inner senses, we can change and minimize our fear of death. For me, one of the most important life lessons that has helped me deal with death is a sense of humor. Smiles and laughter help me to temper the grief that I experience. When we love more and laugh more, that connection never ceases to exist. I can feel it coming back to me through the ethers.
Becca: Would you say you have the answers to “What happens after death?”
Kathleen: It’s my vivid imagination that has helped me to picture what happens after death. Sometimes I can feel the warmth and the laughter coming from my loved ones. Even when writing my book, I could sense the love and encouragement that was being sent my way. I also get a sense when someone has moved beyond the first plane of existence after death; it’s a little harder and takes a little longer to get their attention. In one moving dream, long after my mother had died, she finally answered my pleadings to contact or connect with me. In my dream she walked into a room where I was and looked like she had just awoken from a long nap. The message I got was I had disturbed, or awakened her on her sojourn to the next level, but if I really needed her she would take that time to let me know she was always available for me. I just started reading Deepak Chopra’s Life After Death: The Burden of Proof, and I’m excited about what I can continue to learn about the process and experience of death. His book is more of a synthesis of medical, scientific and spiritual perspectives, whereas my book is written from my personal experience with spirituality.
Becca: What advice do you have for other first-time authors who feel they have inspiration to share?
Kathleen: My advice for first-time authors would be to believe in themselves. Since I have always been a better listener than a talker, I hear the stories from others and I see how by sharing their stories, as I did, the author can uplift, educate, and just simply entertain readers. Writing helps bring your inspiration into focus; it puts your inspiration into a form where you can look at it, reflect on it and work on it. We get so busy with our lives and our obligations that we can get distracted from a deeper sense of purpose in our lives and work, and so it’s very important to make sure to set aside time to write. It may not always come out in perfect form, but you can always go back and edit or rewrite your material. It’s important to just keep writing.
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It is hard to capture the essence of my book in just a few excerpts; it’s a story that covers several generations and life spans. As a mother and daughter, grandmother and great-grandmother, as a woman who has sought a higher vision of death over my lifetime, I invite you to share my story. If you’ve been wondering about the aging and transitions of your loved ones, if you know someone who has lost someone dear to them, I offer my book as “evidence of things unseen” and the idea that death truly can be a journey of enlightenment.
“In the parlor of the house was where grandpa lay in his coffin. That’s what they did back then; they brought the dead bodies back to the home. Maybe the bodies never left. Maybe they just brought the coffins in. Either way, it was spooky. I don’t know how long he was there. He could have been there one day or three, but I know it felt like forever to me. At age eleven, this was my first experience with death.
“I remember grandma telling the family about the morning grandpa died. She explained that, the night prior, grandpa had slept downstairs in the parlor in a makeshift bedroom–he had been sleeping on a cot since he got home from the hospital. Grandpa wasn’t able to climb the stairs to the bedroom anymore. He had very swollen ankles, due to what my mom said was congestive heart failure. In the early morning hours, grandma said she heard what she described as beautiful heavenly music. It reminded her of the little church choir in town but much deeper and richer in tone, something from out of this world. She got up and went down the stairs to check on grandpa. He was dead.”
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“Several years after Bea’s death, I was in one of my relaxed meditative places. I started to relive the day I received the call. Everything came back to me in a heightened state. My initial denial, the shock, the grief and regret—it all came tumbling back. As I continued to relax, the scene changed to what I perceived was a funeral home. Soft music was playing. It felt comforting and spiritual. As I was looking around in my mind’s eye, there was Bea’s spirit floating upward. A star shone above as it pulled her spirit up. I felt I was there with her, and with deep emotion I asked her not to go but she said she needed to. The scene started to fade and with a little deeper relaxation she appeared in ethereal form dancing and dancing. It made me smile to see her. I felt my left hand rise, reaching up to her, and when it felt as though we were connecting, all of my family started to surround me – not faces so much, but feelings. Even Ebby was in the middle of the group. Parents, grandparents brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles and cousins, all of this energy surrounded me. My brother Norb started to stutter, and I laughed and asked him why he was stuttering and he said to tease me and make me laugh. It was a speech disorder he had throughout his life. Bea and I connected with an imaginary ribbon and a heart to heart connection. She said I could tug on it if I needed her and she would do the same if she needed to get in touch with me. She promised to see me in my dreams.”
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“When I was in my teens I had a dream about Loretta. It was very clear and moving. The morning after my dream, I asked my mother if I had ever been the house that my sister had lived in before she died. Since we had moved away from the town when I was very little, she didn’t think I had.
“Well,” I said, “if I describe the house would you tell me if it’s the right one? Because I had a dream last night and I went in her house.”
“My mom agreed, and so I proceeded. “In my dream, I was at the bottom of the stairs. The stairs were situated in the living room and at the top of the stairs dressed in a beautiful flowing blue gown was my sister. She looked down at me, smiling, and motioned for me to come up the stairs. At the top of the stairs she gestured with her hand, as if to show me around the room. It was one big room and it appeared to be a bedroom and nursery. She seemed very happy that she was able to show the room to me. Then the dream ended.”
“My mother told me that I had accurately described the house she lived in. If mom was surprised at the details in my dream, she never let on, but she listened with rapt attention.”
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