GRANDMOTHER SAGE/May the Smoke Carry our Prayers

Grandmother Sage Smudge Sticks

Smudge Sticks made with New Mexico sage, healing herbs and flowers…..woven together with dyed hemp for ceremony, removing negative energy, perfect for altars or as a gift for a bereaved person $17.00 includes free shipping US only



dave---smudgingA First Nations Elder strikes a match, lights something in a bowl or a shell, fans it with a

feather until it smokes, and then proceeds to waft the smoke around the area or room, or
towards individuals who are gathered, often in a circle. As people are approached with
the smoking bowl, they use their hands to pull the smoke over themselves
This is a scene you may have seen in a movie, on the television news or, in person, at a
meeting or ceremony. But were you aware of the significance of what you were
watching or perhaps even participating in?
The purpose of the smudging ceremony is to cleanse, to remove any negative energy that
may be present in a place, an object or a person. And that is why many First Nations
activities start with a smudge



Smudging has long been recognized as an effective way of removing negative energy and evil spirits, but does this spiritual practice have more to offer? New data reveals a reason that everyone, regardless of their spiritual beliefs, should give this ancient cleansing technique a try. In their research, the team revealed that a 1-hour treatment of the medicinal smoke, created by burning both wood and a ‘mixture of odoriferous and medicinal herbs’ was effective in removing over 94% of the airborne bacterial populations in the space.

~Awareness Act


SEVERAL YEARS AGO, I was invited to Igniting the Fire, a First Nations event in Manitoba which brought together, people from several different countries and cultures.

It was a magical and beautiful experience that I’ll never forget ….and there are so many things I could say about those 3 life changing days


First Nations Elder offering sage and cedar smudge before a ceremony begins









but what remains with me still, is the scent of burning sage and cedar, first nation drummers-fire


the sound of the drums, mystery drummers

the power of the ceremonies

and theblue tipi feeling



of Returning



to another time…


and a Memory..




igniting-the camp

of the way I once lived… another place…far in the distant past


I went home after that–to the Texas Hill Country and with my son, made 3 First Nations documentary films and then I moved to a tiny community in the mountains of northeastern New Mexico.

And again the sage brush

scent of sage….. and cedar, piñon and pine

A few weeks ago, while in a Taos gallery, I noticed Sage Smudge Sicks with rose petals wrapped around them, for sale. When I got back to my place, I saw there was nearly everything I needed for smudge sticks….growing on the land I live on: grandmother sage

‘Grandmother Sage’, wildflower meadowvarious healing herbs and flowers roses:fenceand lots of roses.

The New Mexico Sage/sagebrush and the piñon pine grow nearby.

I decided to give it a try and strangely enough [or maybe not[, the process was very familiar to me. I carefully picked the sage, herbs and flowers I needed, ordered some hemp string and began weaving everything together.2 sage s with shells

And I liked them so much and got so many compliments that I decided to sell them.

smudge 1-lace copy

A Lakota friend named them GRANDMOTHER SAGE.

They are each one of a kind–I never make the same one twice and smudge:table:hollyhocks

they depend on what flowers and herbs I have available. They are approximately 13 inches long, hemp cord

wrapped with dyed hemp string and include handa tiny healing hand charm.

I see them being used not only in the traditional way:

“The burning of herbs or incense is a practice held sacred by many indigenous cultures. It is a ritual for cleansing, purifying and protecting the physical and spiritual bodies. The effect of the smoke is to banish negative energies.

Many differing cultures and peoples have their own methods and herbal mixtures for this purpose. Smudging, done correctly, can bring physical, spiritual and emotional balance.”

But maybe even more so as a gift for someone who has experienced a loss or is going through a difficult time. I once watched a very powerful First Nations grief ceremony for a man whose son had recently died. Sage was used along with drumming and singing.

And I gave one of the smudge sticks to a friend whose father had just died. This is what she wrote to me: “Your smudge stick is on the altar for my Dad. It looks SO beautiful.
Once it dries out, I will light it & say prayers.”

So there are many ways to use them…here’s another I read about recently:

Smudging has long been recognized as an effective way of removing negative energy and evil spirits, but does this spiritual practice have more to offer? New data reveals a reason that everyone, regardless of their spiritual beliefs, should give this ancient cleansing technique a try. In their research, the team revealed that a 1-hour treatment of the medicinal smoke, created by burning both wood and a ‘mixture of odoriferous and medicinal herbs’ was effective in removing over 94% of the airborne bacterial populations in the space.

~Awareness Act

I’m selling these smudge sticks to help support shiloh with roadiejody pet sakina 2 copyT HALO 2maggie:los gatoskittens:bob marleyphantom starepuck-leg-upredmanour large rescued animal family who make life so much more meaningful!

If you need more information before ordering, please email me at:

Grandmother Sage Smudge Sticks

Smudge Sticks made with New Mexico sage, healing herbs and flowers…..woven together with dyed hemp for ceremony, removing negative energy, perfect for altars or as a gift for a bereaved person $17.00 includes free shipping US only





My father used to say that stories are part of the most precious heritage of mankind.

— Tahir Shah  In Arabian Nights

Telling stories is not just a way of passing time. It is the way the wisdom gets passed along. The stuff that helps us to live a life worth remembering.

— Rachel Naomi Remen

filming ekr

Cindy and Andy Pickard filming Dr. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

I never expected to be making films. I had no training, no degree but I liked taking pictures and I liked listening to people’s stories and finding a way to share them with others. I got interested in doing this when I was working as an Occupational Therapy Assistant for Hospice Austin. I was always encouraging the patients I saw to make something–paintings, poems, audio leave behind for family and friends.

peterOne of my patients was a man named Peter. Peter had a brain tumor and not long to live and he wanted to make a little video. My son Andy was getting his degree in RTF/Radio, Television, Film at the University of Texas-Austin and so we were able to fulfill Peter’s request. We made a very short, not very professional film and Peter and his wife loved it.

joane camier:statesman articleI didn’t think much of it but I got a call from a reporter at the Austin American Statesman about doing a story. Peter, his wife Joanne and I were interviewed and when the story came out, it was on the front page of the Sunday paper.

So that was the beginning.

Peter died not long after we made his video and not long after that, I founded a non profit called AIDS CARE & ASSISTANCE/Rites of Passage to provide care for people with AIDS. I wanted to take what I had learned working at hospice and add some things I felt were missing and I definitely wanted to incorporate art into what we were offering.

The patients we were providing care for had a a lot of stories to tell–it was a time of extreme prejudice and judgement and File_01 joe:aidsmany of these patients were shunned and rejected by their families.

Most of them were gay men in their 30s and 40s but a day came when we were asked to provide care for a baby with AIDS. His name was Jason, he was 6 months old and his parents were HIV positive also. jason readsThis family, like many other people helped to change the face of AIDS.  Neither gay nor IV drug users, they did not fit into the expected “people who have AIDS” category.

They seemed to be the perfect family, living the ‘American Dream’.

Two weeks before they were all three diagnosed with AIDS, Jim and Gerri were watching a TV show on prostitutes with AIDS and when the show was over,  Gerri had turned to Jim and said “If AIDS is so bad, how come we don’t know anyone who has it?”

File_01 jason lookingAfter we had been caring for Jason for a while, Jim and Gerri decided they wanted to share their experience and make some sort of educational film to bring more awareness about AIDS.

And so we made Jason-the Way we live today. Consisting of interviews with both Jim and Gerri, with both grandmothers and with Jason’s pediatrician, ‘Jason’ is an emotional film about being 24 and 22 years old and watching your baby die, knowing all the while that you are facing the same fate.

I was never very good at getting grants but we did get one–from the Texas based Hogg Foundation. The grant was small just $5000–the purpose of the grant was AIDS education. I was supposed to give talks at churches, nursing home and community groups and help people understand the truth about AIDS….to go beyond the prejudice. And this I was able to do through Jason the way we live today. Jason was able to reach people in a way that others could not and

File jason aids amb

Jason Matthew Briggs Ambassador for AIDS

we eventually gave him the title of ‘The AIDS Ambassador’.

Andy and I went on from there to make probably 15 documentaries:

angels article 2 on AIDS, calvinmeon AgingALMOST HOME ARTICLEon Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, on Loss and Grief, Near Death Experience,

on Native American Teachings, on Sustainable Living and on Taos News Article Prison Documentary_June 25 2015the US Prison System

All of our films are just as relevant today as they were when we made them…maybe some of them even more so. We filmed mostly in Texas but also in New Mexico, Manitoba and Saskatchewan and at Cambridge University and Glastonbury in the UK.

And our filming took us to wonderful places we never would have seen otherwise…

to the Starblanket Reserve in Saskatchewan

andy-starblanket sign

old tipi

indian volleyball

to the TURTLE LODGE in Manitoba

turtlelodgepic copy

turtle lodge-jacko

to  traditional powwows

standing buffalo powwow-1Bullet_Boots_color_correct copy

to Cambridge University

dave-frank-film crew

and to  Glastonburyandy and graham--light film

to a traditional New Mexico Bean Field ceremonyandy:beanfield orchestraandymules


and to the farm of Elisabeth Kubler-Ross in Headwaters, Virginiaekr film:smoking

ekr kitchen


We met people from all walks of life, cultures– young and old, world famous and completely unknown

and they told us their stories..

nelson copyalvin-copychinese girl-fanjoe:amputee

dannionbjim, gerri, jason--gerri

jason breathing tube 2

ekr at workshop copy

8th fire stills grandmother

and we put their stories into a format, into films which which have brought hope, inspiration, understanding and education to many, many hundreds of people.

The films are available below or in the main menu as Award Winning Films. They can be used for education, for hope and inspiration and for story telling. They can be used for in-services in Hospices, Nursing Schools & hospitals, for Adult Sunday School classes, in bereavement groups, in University Social Work classes, in prisons, for military chaplains, for drug and alcohol rehab centers and for Peace and Justice groups.

They serve as a reminder that we are all in some way…the same


On Death & Dying, Near Death Experience, Loss & Grief, Aging, AIDS, Hospice, Native American Teachings and Sustainable Living

filming ekr

Cindy and Andy Pickard filming Dr. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross for We’re Almost Home Now

MY SON ANDY PICKARD AND I began making films in 1990. Our first film together was a very short documentary called calledangels cover copy Jason-The Way We Live Today which we made at the request of a family with AIDS.

From there we went on to make another film about AIDS, ekr at workshop copy one on Elisabeth Kubler-Ross  and her work with dying children, File dr jim!  marian2 films on aging,……

File_01 lee-hug

a film specifically about Hospice and one on near-death experience,


3 films about Native American teachings and wisdom,

one on sustainable living and one which is as yet unfinished on the US Prison System.

aiff awardtellySeveral of these have won awards and all of them remain as relevant today as when they were originally made. They have been purchased for use by universities, libraries, hospices, bereavement groups, nursing schools and health organizations including The National Institutes of Health as well as by individuals…throughout the US and Canada.


File_01 gerri phone

Turning Toward the Morning

Turning Toward the Morning is a celebration of the human spirit. It is one of the most powerful expressions of love, compassion and transcendence I have ever seen. It is a reminder that we humans, for all our faults and failings, also contain the Divine. We are capable of great strengths, great visions, and great wisdom, which often surface in the wake of great pain. Watch this documentary with someone you love, and be prepared for magic.”

-Larry Dossey, MD,  New York Times bestselling author of “Healing Words”

balloonA film of unusual power and beauty, Turning Toward The Morning brings to light stories of parents who have lost a child to illness, to accidental death and to suicide. Breck & Michael 1976 copy

Filled with the special wisdom of dying children and the heartfelt thoughts of their parents, dear mr godits message is one of hope, not only for bereaved parents but for all of us. 

“I watched Turning Toward The Morning with a lump in my throat, tears in my eyes and a sense of profound awe and sacredness……Since watching Turning Toward The Morning I live life with more passion, compassion and hope.”

Robert J. Bos, M.Div.
Coordinator of Special Programs
for Community Grief Support
Hospice of Michigan – Grand Rapids


turning front coverBUY IT HERE

jason_elisWe’re Almost Home Now

Elisabeth Kubler-Ross and her work with dying children

 * This is one of the only films ever made on Elisabeth Kubler-Ross. She was not easy to film but because of our close personal relationship with Elisabeth, we were able to make this documentary.

Cindy Pickard, co-producer

paul: ekr workshop“It’s understandable that it’s very, very sad to lose a child. But parents need to know that their are children who have to pass very few tests, learn very few lessons, and teach a lot of unconditional love, and then they can graduate. And, to me, death is a graduation.”

~Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, M.D. from We’re Almost Home Now

File_01 jessica last chThis very sensitive and moving documentary weaves together the stories of 6 families who have each experienced the death of a child, along with the wisdom and knowledge of Dr. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross….eliza photo:poem.jpgBoth families and professionals will come to understand more about the bridge of life, death and the healing process as this famed professional brings a message of hope to EVERYONE.

Gold Plaque Award – Intercom ’93

eliza's drawingBUY IT HERE


Jason The Way We Live Today

jim-gerri-jasonJason-the way they live today is a short film about living with AIDS, about being 22 and 24 years old, watching your baby die and knowing that you also are destined to die…of AIDS. But more importantly it is a story about extraordinary grace and courage and making the most of each day…in the face of death.

cathedral-me-ttm1 copy

Jason the way we live today was our first film. I showed it often to church and community groups as well as to people who were interested in becoming caregivers for AIDS patients….and I watched it dissolve the prejudice about AIDS and the people who have it.

~Cindy Pickard, co-producer

File jason aids ambBUY IT HERE

Angels Watch Over Me

jason reads

“They truly could be any of our families…their vulnerability is ours, their experiences are ours and their heartbreak became ours. What we can all hope to learn from them is courage, love and above all the importance of educating our children.”

~William E. Sterling, D.D.,
Suffragan Bishop, Episcopal Diocese of Texas

jason breathing tube 2The VERY EMOTIONAL sequel to Jason the way we live today, this documentary follows the Brigg’s family through Jason’s death, Jim’s death and Gerri’s determination to continue on. Although Angels Watch Over Me about AIDS and the way it was in the early 1990s, its most significant message is in the wisdom it brings forth: about facing death with courage and dignity and coming to terms with great loss . If you’re ever feeling like the challenges you’re facing are too much, this is the film to watch!

File_01 gerri“Maybe we are serving as a wakeup call to the entire nation..if other people can learn from our experience, maybe they connect with us more than some other people they’ve met, then I feel that we have a purpose in life.”

-Gerri Briggs




As It Is In Heaven
An interview with Dannion Brinkleywith music by
Andreas Vollenweider

dannionb“We are not from here, we are from there
and all we do is just go home”

~Dannion Brinkley

cloudsFor me, it provided an opportunity to ask of one who has died and returned, such questions as “What is it like over there?”, “How does it feel to die?”, “Why is there suffering?” and “How can we live through these times that are so often frightening and unsettling?” As It Is In Heaven answers these questions and many more.

Illustrated by images from our own lives-hospice patients we have cared for, beloved family members we hope to meet again when it comes our time to cross over and places we have traveled -it is interwoven with the incredibly beautiful music of Andreas Vollenweider. We hope it brings you the peace, inspiration and love that it brought to us as we worked to produce it.

~ Cindy Pickard, co-producer


*ABOUT DANNION BRINKLEYDannion Brinkley is a near death survivor and the author of SAVED BY THE LIGHTthe international bestseller, Saved by the Light as well as its companion, At Peace in the Light.


File_01 lee-hugWalking Us Home

The Hospice Experience

Created for the purpose of providing education and information about hospice for health care professionals, patients and their families and the public, this uplifting documentary includes insightful and informative interviews with staff, patients and family members -filled with many lighthearted as well as serious moments. This video is helpful for anyone interested in gaining a better understanding of Hospice-its philosophy and the services it provides, this video is also an excellent teaching tool for church and community groups.





They will come to a fork in the road. One road will lead to Materialism and Destruction…..for almost all living creatures….The other road will lead to a Spiritual Way upon which the Native People will be standing…This path will lead to the lighting of the 8th fire, a period of eternal peace, harmony and a “New Earth” where the destruction of the past will be healed

Anishnabe prophecy


Starblanket– A Spirit Journey with CD soundtrack

unity ride-noel


noel:flagAt the age of 24, Noel Starblanket was one of the youngest First Nations Chiefs in North America. At the age of 29, he became Chief of all Canadian Indians when he was elected president of the National Indian Brotherhood [now referred to as The Assembly of First Nations]. noel:necklaceOutspoken, rebellious and sometimes outrageous, he was the subject of the 1973 National Film Board of Canada production titled simply, Starblanket. noel interviewNow three and a half decades later, he shares with humor, honesty and emotion, his own healing journey and as he finds peace in returning to the teachings of the Elders, a greater appreciation of life through loss, and renewed hope for the future with the little boy-camp-1emerging Seventh Generation. Through the universal language of image, music and emotion, Starblanket: A Spirit Journey brings to light in a very personal way, the ancient teachings and the extraordinary wisdom of the First Nations people while offering a much-needed message for our time

*Noel Starblanket’s Keynote Speech for ADEC – Toronto, Ontario, Canada 2001




FIRE“In our troubled world, we desperately need a vision that can inspire us to greatness. This vision will be a recovery of the wisdom, sanity, and hope represented in The 8th Fire.”

– Larry Dossey, MD
Bestselling Author of Reinventing Medicine, Healing Words and
The Extraordinary Healing Power of Ordinary Things

dave_speakingDave Courchene  whose traditional name means LEADING EARTH MAN is an Elder and spiritual advisor from the Anishnabe Nation, Eagle Clan. Descended from a long line of chiefs and leaders of his people, he felt “Compelled by forces beyond his control” to quit his job as an educator and go on a ceremonial expedition of peace around the world.

DAVE LEADS CREMONYThrough his dreams, and visions, the experiences of others who have accompanied him on his journey and the words of the visionaries–past and present, we bring you THE 8TH FIRE One Earth * One Whole Circle * Again

thunderbird-dustinA vision of hope…. for the future……for the Earth……for the children



*Read more about Dave Courchene

Manitou Api~ Where the Sun Rises


There is an old saying:  ‘If you want to hide the treasure, put it in plain sight.’ Then no one will see it.  MANITOU API reveals the discovery of symbols and wisdom lying in full view but forgotten — until they are brought again into awareness by those who have not forgotten how to see. MANITOU API is reminiscent of Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol, but with a decisive difference:  It is true. Ranging from Canada to Cambridge, this fascinating film deals with life-and-death issues — because if we do not attend to the wisdom herein, we shall likely have no future on Earth, our only home.”

bigfoot kids hugFrom – Diego Mulligan, KSFR Santa Fe Public Radio  Host of “The Journey Home”
“Manitou API – Where the Sun Rises is by far the best Native American film I have ever seen.  A MUST see

dave:frank:starA First Nations Elder and an architectural historian together, uncover ancient symbols in a Canadian government building, symbols that validate a present day Native American prophecy that speaks of the Return of the People to the Center and the revealing of the 7 Sacred Teachings of the Indigenous People.

kids circle-chinese girlThe return to the Center is to return to the heart. We¹ve all been called to wake from sleep to feel our power to dream again—a dream of peace.

–Elder Dave Courchene /Ni Gaani Aki Inini/ Leading Earth Man] Anishnabe Nation, Eagle Clan

Trailer for MANITOU API~Where the Sun Rises

manitou coverBUY IT HERE

*Read more about Dave Courchene


On The Land~Together with the Earth

  • ed beanfield harvest 2

  • This is a film for anyone who wants to learn more about off grid/sustainable living….

The people

Jonathan and book copy“The Earth will bring people from all walks of life together”-Jonathan Warm Day Coming, Taos Pueblo Artist

Ed interview“The messages of our ancestors are always around if we will only open our hearts to listen..” Ed Cardenas ~Social Worker/Teacher/Author


“Why get hung up in the negativity of the global world…..I don’t go there even though it’s out there. It doesn’t affect just motivates me to do my job which is pretty much… Build to the SUN”

~Willie Groffman, Solar Builder, Juggler

Victor_horse“YOU CAN’T EAT MONEY”Victor Garcia Rancher/Building Craftsman

jody gate-la paz-prison copy

“There was no greed….now days there’s a lot f envy, hate..if you do something, you always have to do it for money…back then people used to help each other…whatever had to be done..”

Jody Armijo, Artist, Craftsman

Mark-5“The new technology is here. It just needs to be implemented”

Mark Myers, Solar Designer

Representing the 3 primary cultures of Northern NM, seven stories of the land and its power to heal, provide and bring people together. From growing up on Taos Pueblo in the 50s to bringing backMule_team copy the old ways of planting and relating through a traditional bean field ceremony , to healing from a troubled and violent life, the land heals and sustains and provides all that is needed to live the good life.greenhous-april-16-chard Advice and practical suggestions are offered about how to make a ranch or home completely self sustaining, using solar energy and building from materials on the land.

Visually beautiful and with an equally beautiful soundtrack ON THE LAND is interspersed with humor and as well, features when-the-moon-came-outthe Pueblo and Spanish Art of northern New Mexico

ED'S GRANDPARENTS 1 copyThe old ways are remembered and honored while respectfully blending them with new technologies. and the wisdom and teachings of the ancestors and grandparents are paramount and always present..






“A rich and precious story of 3 older women and their journeys with loss, isolation and discovery. A moving video for professionals, women who are bereaved and anyone interested in understanding the importance of staying young at heart…”

This captivating video takes viewers into the lives of three inspirational women who have each found peace in growing older. Despite the limitations and challenges brought on by aging and the loss of a spouse, they have persevered and found contentment and joy in their later years.


“Driving to Utopia offers an engaging and thoughtful window in the lives of three widowed women who have said ‘yes’ to life. They draw from the wellsprings of lives filled with faith and joy, compassion and humor. As well as being stewards to the memories of their husbands, they are keepers of dreams yet to be fulfilled. This a valued addition to our library.”

J.Chandler Newton
Chaplain/Bereavement Coordinator
Optima VNA Hospice
Manchester, NH

Merit Award – Mature Media National Awards 1995


Bringing the Circle TogetherFile dr jim!  marian

“Bringing the Circle Together” is an inspired achievement. It richly portrays one of the greatest resources of the human race – the wisdom of our elders – and why we need to rethink our current attitudes toward aging. Highly recommended.

-Larry Dossey, MD
Author: The Reinvention of Medicine
and Healing Words  Exectutive Editor:
Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine


EXCERPT FROM Bringing the Circle Together 

You’ve seen the world change a lot and not for the better?

“No, it’s getting worse every day.”

Tell me what you see.

“Greed – greed’s what’s wrong with our government today. You take those people up there in Washington-congressmen, senators and the president. They done forgot the Constitution. The Constitution said “a government by the people, for the people…equal rights to all and special privilege to none.” You think them people up there…? Something’s got to give one of these days. If we have another depression now, it’s going to be a lot worse than that other one. I lived through that other one. I know what it was. Once in a while you hear them talking about the cost of living’s gone down two-tenths of one percent, but it just don’t happen – up, up, up all the time. Look at all the floods we’ve had up north that destroyed crops and everything. That’s going to have something to do with the cost of living right there. I don’t know how our government can figure they’re doing anything right.”

Alvin Ivy, age 96 Rancher, Cowboy

Wisdom, humor alvin2

and life experience spanning almost a century Reg4– these are the legacies offered byreg CIRCLE1 four unforgettable men in their nineties, the stars of Bringing the Circle Together.

pittman tractorA retired surgeon, cowboy, road-builder, and professor…..alvin-copy  they remind us that life is a circle in which we are all interconnected and in some way responsible for the care of each other.

Woven throughout are the comments of three young men in their twenties and the insights of Dannion Brinkley, near death survivor and author of the New York Times bestseller Saved By the Light.

Merit Award~Mature Media National Awards 1999



“The reality is that you will grieve forever. You will not ‘get over’ the loss of a loved one; you will learn to live with it. You will heal and you will rebuild yourself around the loss you have suffered. You will be whole again but you will never be the same. Nor should you be the same nor would you want to.”
―Dr. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross

phoenix ttm

American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Care Conference  Phoenix Arizona

About a month ago, I decided that I would start again to offer the *Between Now & Forever Loss & Grief workshops that I once gave for National Hospice conferences, churches and universities in several cities and towns around the US. I had thought that I was finished with them but some things happened recently, making me feel it was time to start again.

* Between Now & Forever means to me, that period of time between experiencing a great loss and moving into ‘Forever’ where everything is understood: Why did this happen to me, Why Now etc.

File_ article grand rap

Grand Rapids, Michigan

For several years, I offered as I said, these mini workshops or presentations at Hospice and Death Education Conferences as well as for privately organized  groups throughout the US. The workshops accompanied a photo/oral history exhibit by the same name which traveled to Phoenix, Pittsburgh, Grand Rapids, Mi,

File_01 madison:exhibit


the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Our Lady of Lourdes West Islip, NY , Christ Church Cathedral-Houston, Little Rock Arkansas etc.

But I quit doing them when I went to Portland, Oregon to give a presentation at the Association for Death Education and Counseling Annual Conference. The conference was held at a large hotel and the night before the workshops began, there was a party which I went to and the first people I encountered were 2 grief therapists arguing about which of them had experienced the most grief in her life.

“Yikes!” I thought…..I don’t want any more to do with this and I left and went shopping, only coming back to give my presentation. It was a little bit like when I left the Episcopal Church many, many years before…..I didn’t want to be part of more than, better than, different than.

The only memorable part of my time in Portland was taking the Amtrak to Seattle and sitting next to a woman with 2 big buckets of freshly cut lilacs……reality…..the breath of LIFE.

So it’s been years, probably 15 years, since I’ve offered the workshops but just this past month, I’ve felt that it might be a good time to offer them again… though in a different way. There’s such an overwhelming amount of death, loss, grief and despair on this Earth right now and



these little workshops offer hope and inspiration..a light in the darkness and some magic too..

I no longer want to travel very far so I decided I would offer them in this part of New Mexico where I live–Las Vegas, Taos and Santa Fe and I would begin with Las Vegas. And so a few days ago, I made an appointment to talk with the priest at the Catholic Church in Las Vegas. The priest, whose name is Father George, suggested I call a man who had lost almost his entire family several years before when their minivan was hit by a drunk driver. His daughter, son-in law and 3 of their children were killed instantly when this driver, going the wrong way on the interstate hit their van, going 75 miles an hour.

I remembered the story [it made national news] and I didn’t want to call this man who had been through the imaginable. What could I possibly say?  I thought then about the losses in my own life and I thought about my workshops and what I could offer and what I could not.


“Turning Toward the Morning is a celebration of the human spirit. It is one of the most powerful expressions of love, compassion and transcendence I have ever seen. It is a reminder that we humans, for all our faults and failings, also contain the Divine. We are capable of great strengths, great visions, and great wisdom, which often surface in the wake of great pain. Watch this documentary with someone you love, and be prepared for magic.”

-New York Times Bestselling author, Larry Dossey, MD

I’m not a grief therapist-I never wanted to be. My workshops involve showing our award winning documentary, Turning Toward the Morning followed by a time to create simple memorials. I always bring colored markers, crayons, paints, glitter & colored paper and everyone from young children to the very elderly make drawings or write poems or letters and memorial-daddyeach one however simple or complex, is beautiful.

turning front coverTurning Toward the Morning includes 3 stories, 3 stories of parents who have lost a child to accidental death, suicide and terminal illness. The stories are told by the parents themselves……there are no ‘experts’ expressing opinions or giving advice.

Breck & Michael 1976 copy

Michael and Breck Whitman from Turning Toward the Morning

The experts are the parents themselves.

After Father George suggested I contact the man who had lost his family, I thought about what really helps when there is tremendous loss. Who can help and how?  The answer, at least from my experience, is almost no one because it’s each person’s personal journey, one that they have to make alone. Even in the case of parents who lose a child, they each make the journey alone.


I thought about when my mother died when I was nine and how I instinctively closed myself off because I knew no one would understand. I knew they would say things like “Your mother was a wonderful person and now you have to live up to her memory and help your father.” or “She’s in a better place.” [How do they know I always wonder and how do those words help? They’re just words]

And I remembered when my brother killed himself at age 16. It was late August and I was getting ready to leave in 2 weeks for my sophomore year at Hollins College in Roanoke Virginia. My dad and stepmother thought it was too soon for me to go back but I wanted to be with my friends so they warned me “If you want to go back, don’t ask to come home. We’ve spent a lot of money.” [There would not be any emotional support at home which was why I wanted to leave]

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Sharon, Jeff and me  ~ Hollins College Roanoke, Virginia

For about 2 weeks after I was back at school, I was OK. My friends provided a distraction but then they were ready to go on with their lives as college sophomores and I wasn’t. I crashed, got sick–mono- and was sent to the college infirmary.

I was REALLY sick…I had night sweats and a terrible sore throat and I lay in bed on a rubber sheet not caring if I lived or died. But there was a doctor in that infirmary who took care of me. I don’t remember her name but I remember her because she was the first person who seemed to understand. I don’t remember any words that she spoke either….It was the feeling that came from her, a feeling of of compassion, caring and understanding and I felt safe and cared for with her as if I didn’t have to pretend. Later I learned that this doctor was herself terminally ill which probably explained her compassion.


Dr Elisabeth Kubler-Ross signing books at a Life, Death and Transition workshop *The man on the left was a young dentist with ALS and the man on the right had lost his wife in a plane crash just the week before

Many years after that, I went to my first Life, Death and Transition workshop with Dr. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross. The workshop was held at the Old Mission San Luis Rey in Oceanside, California and because of Elisabeth, her spirit and the way she was able to communicate with people, the feeling was the same..once again it wasn’t words but a FEELING of being cared for and understood…..I wanted to stay there forever, far away from the world that had hurt me and brought me so much pain.


So the workshops…..What can I offer? I can’t offer a solution-no one can- but through  Turning Toward the Morning, I can offer the stories of some people who have found peace and a reason to go on… in the midst of great loss.

And I can offer the memorials as a way of expression, remembering and honoring…

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Captain Matthew Rogan  FDNY  died September 11, 2001

About a month after 911, I happened to be staying in the convent at Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church in West Islip, NY. Many of the firefighters who died on 911 were from West Islip and as I walked around the village, I saw memorials for them in many of the shop windows. One in particular stood out and I looked at the name–Matthew Rogan. When I got back to the convent, I asked one of the nuns, Sister Diane, about Matthew Rogan and she told me thatFile_01 matthew:parish his 10 year old son, also named Matthew, was in 4th grade at the church school. He was having a very difficult time she said and she was meeting with him whenever he needed to talk, in an attempt to help him through this terribly sad and painful time.

I asked if I could talk with Matthew, if he might like to tell his father’s story.

He did and the next day I interviewed him and took some photos. He drew a picture of his father’s firetruck which he wanted included in the memorial and when I got back home, I had everything framed and it became part of the traveling exhibit I did on loss and grief.matthew for sah copy copy

Six years later I took the exhibit to Our Lady of Lourdes and Matthew came with his mom. He came up to me and gave me a kiss on the cheek and then his mom told me how much it had meant to him to know that his father’s story had reached so many people. I was  happy…it’s always a giant leap of faith because I never know when I begin these projects what the outcome will be. *Matthew’s memorial is now permanently displayed at The Houston Firefighters Memorial in Houston, Texas.




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Matthew Rogan with his exhibit piece from Between Now & Forever ~Our Lady of Lourdes, West Islip, NY


exhibit 2 madisonIn 2004, I was invited to do a workshop presentation at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. It was put on by the School of Nursing and it was extremely challenging in many ways. theater madisonAlong with the Between Now & Forever exhibit, I showed Turning Toward the Morning in a small theater there in the conference center

Before the film was shown, I gave a short talk about my experiences with loss, my therapy with the much loved addictions counselor, John Bradshaw and about the workshops with Elisabeth Kubler-Ross. And then for some reason, maybe because I was very tired and wasn’t trying to impress anyone, I talked about how I had quite often in the past, cut myself with razor blades. I don’t know why I mentioned this then because I never talked about it. I thought it was shameful and I had seen before that people were horrified. Now it seems to be kind of an ‘in thing’ with kids like killing themselves on Facebook but at that time, I knew no one else who cut themselves.

But then the unexpected happened. When the film was over, quite a few people came up to me and began telling me their stories. They said things like I never cut myself but I tortured myself in other ways….and we understood each other and the whole feeling of that conference changed for me then and there. It wasn’t a formal event any longer but a real and true communion between people.


“We won’t succumb to hate, bitterness or disillusionment; we will use wisely the time we have left together…”



I said I wanted to do the Between Now & Forever workshops in a different way but really I just want to add something to them and it’s this. A couple months ago I read a story that I could not forget: it was the story of University of Pennsylvania student, Blaze Bernstein who was brutally murdered by a ‘friend’.

Blaze who was known as a teenager with “a gentle and generous heart” was missing from his parents home in southern California for a week and when his body was found, he had been stabbed 20 times.

And his parents made this statement.

“We won’t succumb to hate, bitterness or disillusionment; we will use wisely the time we have left together. When we stop crying we will start doing positive things to affect change. We ask that everyone work towards something good. Stop being complacent. Do something now.

Now is the time to set aside fear, ignorance and judgement. It is time to love. Love each other. Be good. Do good and honor Blaze’s memory.”

~Jeanne and Gideon Bernstein

So I’m doing the workshops in memory of Blaze, as my small way of doing something good, of doing something positive to affect change.

Because it’s time now to move past and go beyond hate, revenge and blame…it’s way past time. Humanity will not survive much longer in this atmosphere. It’s all we hear in the ‘news’, from the politicians, from the ‘metoo’ people. It has become the accepted and expected way but it is not THE WAY.

For more information on the workshops, you can contact me at:

*ALSO I am offering these handmade hearts for a donation and as part of the workshops. They can be used as memorials…On the back, you can write a message: “RIP, in memory of” etc…with a fine tipped marker. 2 gold, 1 pink hearts

And if you would like to contribute to the continuation of this blog, you can do so here.

Thank you and May the Force be with You

For our world today..We’re Almost Home Now

Baby SebastianWhen we have done all the work we were sent to do, we are allowed to shed our body, which imprisons our soul like a cocoon encloses the future butterfly.” – Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

As the world today is continuously overwhelmed with loss, grief, death, I’m writing about two award winning, documentary films that may be helpful, comforting or offer another way of looking at all of this pain . *I will do a post about the second film, Turning Toward the Morning in the next couple of days.

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Cindy and Andy Pickard filming Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

Since 1990, my son, Andy Pickard/IMAGICA PICTURES and I /RITES OF PASSAGE have been making documentary films. Many of them have been on death and dying and these have dealt with the loss of a child-Turning Toward the Morning, Elisabeth Kubler-Ross’s work with dying children-We’re Almost Home Now, Near Death Experience-As it is in Heaven, Hospice-Walking Us Home and loss of a spouse [husband in this case]-Driving to Utopia. You can read about all of these as well as our other films at Our Films.


Elisabeth Kubler-Ross and her work with dying children


Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, MDFile_01 ekr:khamala was a Swiss-American psychiatrist, pioneer in death & dying studies and the author of the groundbreaking book On Death and Dying.on d and d cover

In 1990, when my son and I and a small film crew, traveled to Elisabeth’s farm in Headwaters, Virginia,ekr kitchen we expected to do a documentary on her life. Elisabeth however, had other ideas.ekr film:smoking She wanted the film to be about her work with dying children….briggs later portrait and so We’re Almost Home Now is focused on her work with terminally ill children as well as with her work related to children who died in accidents, were murdered or committed suicide.

Elisabeth’s work with death and dying had begun when she visited Majdanek Concentration Camp shortly after the liberation and where she saw trainloads of baby shoes majdanek shoesand drawings of butterflies scratched on the walls of the children’s barracks and so We’re Almost Home Now begins..

Elisabeth emphasized the need to pay attention to the symbolic language of children, not only their words but also their drawings and poetry. As I did my part of the editing on this documentary, I kept a book of poems and drawings of these children who were included in the film.

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Rainbow drawn by 8 year old, Kevin Haro during the time he was dying of leukemia

dear mr god

Written by 8 year old Jessica Locke, very shortly before she was killed in a car accident

Eliza Thomas was killed along with three other teenage girls in what came to be known as ‘The Yogurt Shop Murders’ which happened in Austin,TX in 1990. The store was robbed, the girls were shot and then the shop was set on fire.

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I Can’t Believe It’s Yogurt Shop Austin Tx

I interviewed Eliza’s mother, Maria not long after the murders. It was one of the most painful interviews I have ever done however Maria, wanted her daughter to be part of the film, wanted her to be remembered and she gave me some photos of Eliza to copy and a book of poems Eliza had written in the years previous to her death…I think this poem is particularly profound especially the last line..eliza photo:poem


Elisabeth found in her work with terminally ill children that they were much more accepting and at peace with death than adults….pig nose

Children who die young are some of our greatest teachers. We are allowed to die when we have taught what we came to teach and when we have learned what we came to learn.-Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

kevin and mom smile

As we worked to finish the film in time for an opening screening which we had planned ahead of time, we still had no title and I was really beginning to worry. We had to have a title.

cliff and maryDuring that time, I often visited Cliff and Mary Locke, whose daughter Jessica is included in the documentary and one day, not long before the screening, Mary reminded me again of the last words she had spoken to Jessica.

The family had been returning home after church and Jessica was in the backseat. She had been unusually tired that morning and had asked her mother if she could take off her seat belt so she could lie down and sleep. They were close to home when Mary said “Wake up, Honey, we’re almost home now.” and at that moment they were hit head on by a drunk driver. Cliff and Mary survived and Jessica was killed instantly, something she had already understood unconsciously and which can be seen through her drawings.


Jessica Locke’s drawing of a hot air balloon floating up to the sky…colors and numbers are symbolic and significant. Jessica’s parents found this on her bed the day after she was killed. She had drawn it the morning of the accident.

I knew then then what the title of our film would be…ALMOST HOME ARTICLE

We’re Almost Home Now has been widely used by nursing schools, bereavement centers, hospices, hospitals, universities etc. It is, I believe, the only full length documentary on Elisabeth Kubler-Ross. It is excellent as a training film for hospice volunteers and for organizations such as Stephen Ministers. It has brought peace and comfort to many, many parents who have lost a child and to others who are themselves facing death…


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