I first had a sense of assistance from the other side when my maternal grandmother died. Along with my father, she had been for me an example of a life well prayed. I remember receiving a note from her in my freshman year at college. She told me that she was praying for me every day. Somehow that made a difference for me in a difficult stage of my life. When she passed away, I noticed that it didn’t stop.
The Episcopal Church gave me language from the Christian tradition to understand this. My grandmother’s home parish was All Saints, Berkeley, named for the feast day (November 2) when we held in our prayers all those who had died and yet who lived in nearer presence to God.
Our liturgy also gave hints of our active ties within what the creeds called “the fellowship of the saints.” In litanies that we prayed on special occasions, the saints were invoked by name. We called on them to pray for us. But little of this translated to my personal prayer. I remembered in my prayers people who I loved who had died, but I was not cultivating an active sense of my fellowship with them. I was not speaking to them. I was not listening to them.
Helen Daly’s death changed that for me. We had developed a partnership along with others while she was alive around a shared commitment to grow in the Wisdom work ourselves and to share it with others. When the news came that an aggressive tumor would soon end her life, it felt so wrong on so many counts, not least that the partnership that had seemed to be opening so beautifully would now be ended. And then she understood: she was being promoted, she said, and she would be working from the other side.
The working partnership did not end with her death. It was translated to a higher key and a subtler transmission. It required neither faith nor imagination to experience the effective force of her work “from the other side.” I felt the physical sensation of energy from behind me, like wind at my back, encouraging me forward. Doors of opportunity seemed to open of themselves. Barriers unexpectedly removed themselves.
Neither was I the only person who experienced this. Many who loved her felt her continued influence and encouragement – sometimes her outright command. If we needed any confirmation of our fellowship with her and her involvement in our lives, we had only to look at her husband John, united with her for all eternally, whose life was visibly being transformed on a daily basis – as he will tell you himself.
Because so many of us in the Wisdom & Money network who love her continue to experience her active presence – and because she left a financial gift that has substantially launched our organization’s work – we knew that our first Network-Wide Gathering needed to be held at Hallelujah Farm, Helen’s spiritual base of operations, and that we should celebrate together her legacy of Money moved in Spirit.
I believe that many of us who were there at the Gathering will continue to open for ourselves the power of that experience, but I want to speak of one thing here that I learned, one thing that feels imperative for me to hold and to live by.
The Gathering was momentous in the life of our organization for a number of reasons; one among them is that it was the first opportunity for many in the network to meet Brenda Salgado, the newest member of our staff, and for Brenda to offer her own practice among us, a practice rooted in the Native tradition.
One aspect of this practice that has had an impact on me is the sense of fellowship and of active relationship with the ancestors. She speaks to those who have died, and she listens to them.
More significantly for me, this practice is not simply a source of personal comfort or guidance. Our active spiritual commerce with the ancestors – let me call them “all souls” – will be of crucial importance in fulfilling the work that we are called to do in this world.
I understand that work in the terms that Helen understood it, that is, in the grandest possible scale: our work is to actively participate in the transformation of humankind – in our understanding of ourselves, our relationship with one another, our relationship with the earth and all creatures, indeed our relationship with the universe and its relationship with us – as we evolve together into a new capacity of being.
We are meant to dedicate ourselves entirely to this work, with all that we are and all that we have, and we are meant to do it together as a species. We cannot do this work without one another – all of us, without exception.
And we are meant to do this in fellowship with all souls, with all who have ever lived and loved. In truth, we cannot do this work without them. We are meant to cultivate our fellowship with them; we do this by intentionally opening the love in our hearts that we have for them and they have for us. We are meant to enjoy their presence with us.
And we are meant to invoke them, to speak to them and listen to them, and calling on them for encouragement and assistance, urgently and particularly. We cannot succeed otherwise. This Brenda, Helen and my grandmother have taught me.