Candace Marie of Beyond the Veil is a gifted psychic reader, teacher, healer and death midwife based in LA. She offers guidance in several modalities: astrology, clairvoyance, divination with Tarot and tea leaves, mediumship and ritual work. She comes from a long line of Romany seers, and one of her natural gifts is the ability to communicate with those in spirit. Moved by the many profound experiences she had while working as a psychic medium, she felt called to learn more about the process of dying by becoming a certified death midwife.
A death midwife is, in essence, similar to a midwife assisting in birth: both aim to help their patients through transition by offering spiritual, emotional and physical support. A death midwife’s services cover all stages of death and extend to the loved ones of the patient. In some cases she’ll have the chance to work with the family of a terminally ill patient for weeks or months, other times she’ll only have a matter of days or hours. Every situation is unique. Here, Candace shares some of her life-changing experiences and discusses death culture today.
How did you come to this path, or rather, how did it come to you?
I remember several years ago seeing a documentary called How to Die in Oregon. It covered the state’s dignity acts at the time and people who were terminally ill. It talked a lot about where we draw the line of assisted suicide, which is a pretty sticky topic. I saw these death midwives coming in, choosing to sit bedside, and found it especially moving because they were able to do so and be so poised, not over-the-top emotional and reactive. I then started doing some research and found that, because of changing laws on the Pacific side of the States, this type of thing was becoming more of an acceptable position.
What typically takes place when someone dies at home?
We set the joints, put the body on ice, wrap it and prepare it for an at-home burial, or for various types of burials and services in or out of the home. We’re trained to prepare the body for a traditional three-day vigil in the home. As soon as the body dies, everything begins to get stiff, so we try to put the body in the space where it will be viewed. The actual auric field or light-body is very sensitive, so we don’t want to touch it. We wrap the body in a shroud, wrap the whole head, and actually tie the joints of the jaw so it’s closed. We shut the eyes if they’re not already. We stuff and close the mouth, prepare the bowels so that nothing comes out of the corpse, and then wrap everything before the rigor mortis sets in.
How do you acknowledge the presence of the person’s soul while you’re working with their physical remains?
I remember watching my teacher still talking to a person who had passed, because from the Buddhist perspective, the soul hasn’t left the body yet. So as we’re cleaning them and putting essential oils on the body and wrapping them in their shroud, we’re talking to them and trying to be very gentle and calm because we recognize that the light-body is still very active and the soul is still in the process of physically leaving.
What are some common misconceptions surrounding death?
I think a lot of people assume, especially in regards to the care-taking of the body, that it is somehow not legal to handle the body or do anything outside of the funeral home. Obviously, there are channels you have to go through, but you don’t necessarily have to turn the body over. Also, bodies don’t have a tendency to freak out and come back to life!
What about our ‘death culture’ is distinctly American?
We don’t want to look at it, we don’t want to deal with it, we don’t want to touch it. Granted, I don’t think it’s literally just American, but when you look at the funeral business, there certainly is a big business in the death industry here. You’re looking at paying thousands of dollars for a grave plot, then you gotta get your headstone and buy your several thousand dollar casket. People are banking off the fact that we fear death.
What’s one of the most profound experiences you have had while performing your duties?
I think, thus far, the most profound experience I have had was getting to assist a family in end of life care, and being able to watch them one by one come around to the idea of joining in and helping to participate in the whole process. I get so moved when I start seeing families opting for, like, a pine box instead of a fancy casket because they want to decorate it.
What can we do to heal the fear and stigma surrounding death?
I think the more people who explore this the better, and the sooner they explore it, the better as well, because it really opened my eyes to see just how short life really is. We have to start thinking about it now, and not in the sense of fearing what is going to be, but more so in embracing it with open arms, because it only helps the process. The truth is, it could happen at any moment. Time doesn’t really make a difference, so taking advantage of every precious day that we have, while being appreciative and present, is the key to having a happy time of death.