“Michael died at 6:21 pm yesterday…Can’t believe it! Call me when you can…”
“Rough night…Going to turn off my phone and sleep in…I’ll call you…”
It’s been a little over three years now since the above texts landed in my inbox in the middle of the night. They were from my twin sister, Renee. Michael was a dear friend of hers whom she had dated during most of 2010. The two of them had remained close after the romance fizzled, texting or talking on the phone almost every day, even after her move to Hawaii in December of that year.
Suddenly, in mid-January, 2011, after several days of uncharacteristic silence, Michael had sent Renee an alarming text saying he was in the hospital being treated for a respiratory infection and felt he was fighting for his life. We’re talking about a vibrant, “gentle giant” of a man, in his early fifties, with a very strong constitution and a reputation among his guy friends as a fiercely competitive athlete, especially on a basketball court. Later, his doctors would say he was the strongest man they had ever met.
Heartbreakingly, Michael’s last text to Renee before they put him on a ventilator a couple of days later said:
“In case I don’t talk to you again, just know how much your sweetness, kindness, and thoughtfulness have meant to me…”
After that, Renee and I began following Michael’s progress through postings from his family on Facebook. We knew he was unconscious in ICU for about six weeks, much of that time in a medically induced coma, and then had regained consciousness briefly, but was apparently unable to move or speak. Eventually, he was diagnosed with a rare and deadly form of pneumonia, one of those superbugs that are entirely resistant to antibiotics.
Michael had been carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders for several years prior to his death, laboring under a mountain of debt that had piled precipitously on top of him in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, followed by an expensive divorce. He worked long hours at his two veterinary clinics, and generally put a lot of pressure on himself to pay off the debt as quickly as possible. Acutely aware of the precarious nature of life in the early 21st century, he seemed driven by a desire, bordering on obsession, to construct a fortress of security around himself and his loved ones, in particular his three children, all of whom were now making the transition into adulthood and struggling to find their way in an increasingly unstable world.
I got the news of Michael’s passing on the morning of March 22, 2011, when I turned on my phone and read the texts from my sister. Through my own tears, I sent the following reply:
“Can’t believe it either. Such a shock. I’m here. Call me when you wake up.”
A couple of hours later Renee checked in, sounding sleep deprived and emotionally raw. I listened while the pain poured out of her. Gradually, as the conversation meandered, we began to try to make sense of what had happened. I mentioned how curious it was that Michael had managed to die at the exact moment of the spring equinox, symbolizing rebirth after the long, dark night of winter, and speculated that he may have been trying to send a message of some sort.
As we talked, it occurred to me that just as we choose the moment of our birth in order to establish a blueprint, in the form of our natal chart, which can later be decoded to help guide us toward our destinies, we might also choose the moment of our death, in order that others might decode its meaning after we are gone, possibly finding inspiration and comfort therein.
With that realization, I quickly got off the phone and began comparing Michael’s birth and death charts, looking for clues that might explain the deeper meaning of his death. From an astrological perspective, the spring equinox marks the moment the Sun moves from the last degree of Pisces to the first degree of Aries. The chart for Michael’s death showed this transition from Pisces to Aries occurring on the cusp between the 10th and 11th houses. What this suggested was movement away from the “business as usual” mindset characteristic of basic survival strategies into a heightened sense of belonging to the human community, along with a direct and profound experience of unity consciousness.
Other clues were to be found in the keynote messages associated with the Midheaven and Ascendant moments in the spring equinox chart. The Midheaven at 11+ degrees Pisces described “an inner ordeal” leading to “God-revelation,” while the Ascendant at 27+ degrees Gemini spoke of “forgiveness of all debt” and “a release from collective pressures that have become impossible to bear.”
These poignant messages provided a context for something even more stunning. When I overlaid Michael’s natal chart with his death chart, the sacred geometry of a Finger of Destiny took shape, pointing from Michael’s natal Pluto (death and resurrection) and Neptune (the mystic) to the equinox Sun (rebirth into the clear light) at the very last moment of Pisces (Christ consciousness), the keynote for which is “It has been accomplished.”
As I explained to Renee later that afternoon, it seemed that Michael had, in fact, chosen the moment of his death and that he knew exactly what he was doing: “It’s as if he is broadcasting to everyone who knew and loved him, but especially to you, that he has merged into the zero point of unity consciousness and been reborn into the clear light.” “What if Michael knew for quite a while that he was going to be crossing over and he held on, in part, to deliver this message to you?” I pondered.
By way of confirmation, Renee quietly reminded me that her name, Renee Clare, literally means “reborn into the clear light.” After a moment of stunned silence, followed by mutual exclamations of amazement, we began to marvel in earnest at Michael’s astonishing resourcefulness and intentionality. He knew I was an astrologer and would be able to help Renee decipher the code he had left behind in his death chart.
Later that day, still trying to fathom everything that had transpired, Renee and I had the following text exchange:
“I’m glad Michael was in charge, making things happen for his greater good…Bravo!!! Great how he’s tying up all those loose ends…:-)”
“He was always such a Type-A, Alpha male. Now, too, even in death…”
“Yup, way to go Sweetheart!”
“He’s your Guardian Angel now.”
“He is…This is the Michael I knew he was…”
“Truly impressive! And he’s just getting started.”
“Rock on, Michael!!! We’re watching…”
A week later, I attended Michael’s memorial service on Renee’s behalf, since she was still thousands of miles away in Hawaii. In the days leading up to the memorial, Renee and I had discussed the possibility that I might place a heart-shaped, rose quartz crystal in Michael’s coffin. The “pink heart,” as we called it, had special meaning for Michael, Renee and me during the time Michael was part of our family, so this gesture felt deeply right to the two of us. It symbolized that he was now officially a member of “The Pink Hearts Club,” an extended family network of prayer, healing and love. In order to accomplish my mission, Renee and I asked that two conditions be met: 1. That Michael give me a sign indicating he wanted the pink heart in the coffin with him; and 2. That he make it possible for me to place it there.
As I walked into the foyer of the church, my eyes fell upon the table where people sat solemnly signing Michael’s guest book. There, behind the open book, was a beautiful, framed picture of Michael taken by Renee in our living room less than a year before. Renee had shared the picture on Michael’s Facebook wall after his death and it had “somehow” made its way into his memorial service from there. In the photo, Michael sits on our large, sectional sofa, looking happy, radiant and relaxed, with a giant painting of a field of red poppies, symbolic of clairvoyant communication, framing his shoulders and head.
As I entered the chapel a few minutes later, I noted this same photo projected at least six feet high onto a screen directly behind Michael’s open coffin under the words “In Loving Memory.” If I had any doubts that I was being given the green light for delivery of the pink heart, they vanished in that moment.
Approximately 200 people were already milling around inside the chapel, but miraculously none of them seemed to be looking in the direction of Michael’s coffin. It was as if the sea had temporarily parted. Seizing the opportunity, I made my way to the front of the chapel, and, with a prayer in my heart, leaned in toward Michael’s lifeless body and slipped the pink heart into the folds of satin under his right elbow directly across from his heart.
Mission accomplished and with a sigh of relief, I turned to look for my seat and noticed Michael’s daughter standing nearby. When I approached her, introduced myself and explained that I was Renee’s sister, she immediately embraced me, saying “Renee’s sweetness and kindness meant so much to my Dad.” Her words, so reminiscent of the last text Michael had sent to Renee, brought tears to both our eyes. I couldn’t help but feel his presence moving through her as I offered my condolences and turned to go.
The memorial service was a moving testament to Michael’s life and spirit. Over 400 people came to pay their respects that day, and Michael was beautifully eulogized by several family members and friends. What impacted me the most, however, was a story shared by the preacher. He had visited Michael in the hospital around the time he was first admitted, assuming “they would fix Michael up with some antibiotics and he would be out of there in no time.” But as the preacher said his goodbyes that day and started to leave, Michael had stopped him, saying, “Sean, I want you to promise me you will officiate at my funeral.” Shocked, the preacher had tried to brush Michael off, saying, “Of course, I will do whatever you ask, Michael, but let’s not speak of this again for another fifty years.” Michael had insisted even more forcefully, however, in order to underscore the point.
It seems clear that Michael did, in fact, know early on that he would not be bouncing back from his mysterious illness. And, yet, I believe he purposefully held on for more than two months, much of that time in a coma with his devoted daughter at his bedside, lovingly holding his hand and calling him “Daddy.” Perhaps, he made such a mind blowing sacrifice, in part, in order to send a powerful message of transcendent wisdom and renewal to everyone who hears this story. If Michael’s case is any indication, we do, indeed, chose the moment of our death, and we do so with great clarity, intentionality and love for those we leave behind.
(DISCLAIMER: Some of the names, dates and identifying details have been changed out of respect for Michael’s family. Otherwise, this blog is entirely factual.)