After my stepdaughter Heather was killed two years ago, we held an amazing celebration of life event for her. The theme was that she was, and is, a free spirit – she was a free spirit in life, and now in death she is a free spirit as well, meaning a spirit that is free. Just as we all are.
It was one of the few positive moments during that time of grief.
This was two years ago to the day, December 5th 2017, and I thought I would share what I said back then at the event, in the hope that it may help, or give hope to someone who may feel similar pain and grief.
What follows below is the outline that I had used when I spoke. I do not have the exact words, but it was pretty close to this. After a priest opened the event with a prayer, I got up and said the words below, and then other people shared stories.
A celebration of life event for Heather – the free spirit.
I am Heather’s step-dad, and I want to say a few words.
So we all know, Heather has not always had an easy live. She has met, and mastered, many challenges in live, which made her an extremely strong and resilient person. And those experiences never got her down, but she always had a positive outlook on things. Throughout all this, she was able to transfer her strength and love to so many people, and I think, we can all say she touched many people in a very positive way. So maybe it makes sense that she became a massage therapist, being able to apply a healing touch.
Today, we want to come together to celebrate this incredible strong person in a celebration of her live.
Another trait of Heather was that she was very unconventional. Maybe it was because of all the things she endured and ultimately mastered. She did not march to another person’s drum. Whenever she did something, dressed a certain way, whatever, and somebody did not like it, it was like “so what? That’s how I am. People either accept me the way I am, and if not, then it is their loss.”
And there is also another term that describes a person who is unconventional, and thereby Heather.
Not only was she a strong spirit, Heather was a free spirit.
She was a free spirit in live, in how she carried herself, behaved, and so on.
We all thought, that term described her so well.
And if we think about that term, “free spirit,” it also has another meaning. Because now, at this moment, Heather IS... a free spirit. Her spirit is free, not bound by the body, but nonetheless the spirit is still there, right here, amongst us, free.
Heather was, and IS, a free spirit.
So we decided to make this term “free spirit” the theme for this memorial. We wanted it to be unconventional, being outside, here in this beautiful park, people just coming and being comfortable. We wanted it to be, like, if Heather drove past in her car and saw this, she would say, “hey, this is really cool”. So later on, we’ll do some celebration things, like release balloons, and play some music.
And after I’m done talking, we’ll invite anybody who wants to share something about her to come up and just say a few word, maybe some memories that make us all smile in remembrance and let us feel the warmth and love that this strong free spirit spread.
But I think, this term “free spirit” can also give us hope – in that we can see that she is truly still with us right now, here.
I want to talk about this a bit, because, you see, we may have already seen some signs that Heather is indeed still here, amongst us, just in different form. I understand, what I will say, is not for everybody, but I know there are some here that will find solace in this, and I speak to those.
About 20 years ago I myself had a deeply spiritual experience that showed to me we are much more than this body. In the years that followed, I met several people that had other experiences that confirmed this. I have met two people that I trust deeply who have had out–of-body experiences; one of them is right here, it’s Heather’s uncle. I have met two people who have had near death experiences – the interesting thing about one of these is that it happened around 1910, long before such things became known and popular in New Age Books.
We are more than this body; the spirit lives on. Heather is a free spirit.
When my father died, there was a broken TV in the house, and when we came back from the funeral, it worked flawlessly again from that moment forward. When my mother died, we came back from the funeral and two lights that were OFF started to flicker. How is that possible? When my closest aunt died, at the moment of her death the furnace went out; and in cold-country in February that’s a big deal… There were so many more strange things that all happened.
Take from it what you want. To me it showed: We are more than this body; the spirit lives on.
Heather is a Free Spirit.
And that brings us to Heather, because if you believe in this sort of thing, there may have been some signs already.
First, when we tried to decide how to hold the event here, we were all sitting over there on that bench, deeply troubled. And like it is so often the case here in this park, in the evening there are a lot of people walking their dogs. So here comes this lady with her little Pomeranian, and the dog comes right over to us, to Tina and B., as if to cheer them up. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary about this until the lady says: “This is so strange; normally he would not do this; he does not like people and just barks at them” So the little dog saw something here, something that goes beyond our bodies, and tried to comfort us.
We are more than this body; the spirit lives on. Heather is a FREE Spirit.
Then, on our trip over from Germany, so many good things happened that it’s hard to believe it is coincidence; the most amazing is that we got put into a hotel room with a number that is Heather’s birthday: The 5th of April. 504.
Then on Saturday I went into a thriftstore, and Heather kind of “led me” over to the books, and amid all these business books, I find this one here entitled “Thank you, your opinion means nothing to me.” Now, do we know somebody who this fits to a tee? Maybe a certain free spirit?
We then found several passages in the book that that spoke to us, like a message from Heather. I’ll share just one of it with you. Here, the author is struggling with a tough life situation and writes:
“I am an apprentice in training.
I tell myself, never been here before, in this way.
I don’t have all the answers.”
I think that describes us all right now very well; we all are apprentices at life; we don’t know what to make with this situation right here… But it’s OK – we don’t have to have all the answers…
I think there is a lot of wisdom here.
But it gets goes on… When I stood in line to pay for that book in the thrift store, I looked over down an aisle and saw something fall of a shelf by itself. It seemed strange that it would fall by itself, without a reason. A lady picked it up and put it back; and after I paid I went looking for it and found it: It had a ceramic plate in it that had a poem about Girlfriends – and here is Tina, Heather’s best Friend, grieving: I believe Heather wanted me to give this to her.
But then I realized there are a lot of people here today, MANY very good girlfriends of Heather, so I wanted to just share this little poem from that plaque with you all, and maybe it speaks to some of you:
Girlfriends are much cheaper than therapists and a whole lot more fun.
A girlfriend knows your deep dark secrets, but likes you anyways.*
Girlfriends are no farther away than the phone, even if it’s 4 am in morning.
[and now this: ]
A girlfriend is hard to find, Impossible to replace, And never forgotten.
*[Comment: at the memorial later on, there was one girl who got up and said, Heather was my only friend. She knew all my secrets. It fit so well.]
So you can say, this is all coincidence! And yes, maybe when we are looking for signs we do find them. But some of these are just too weird for me: lights that are off and then flicker, TVs repairing themselves? No!
I can tell you unequivocally: We are more than this body; the spirit lives on. Heather is a FREE Spirit… and that spirit lives on… and is here with us today, just in different form.
And if maybe you felt touched by some of these stories, know this, this was her placing her healing hands on you, saying, “hey, I’m here, it’s all good, don’t be scared, let’s rock this place! “
And with that, I want to end my talk and move this over into the celebration part, where we celebrate this really strong, incredibly strong, free spirit, and we think of her with love and remembrance. Let’s do this as if she is right here with us. Because, she would want us to smile, laugh, dance, sing, a this memorial, to celebrate her, and make us remember her warmly.
So I ask you all to please send her the warmest thoughts and memories, and just give yourself the openness to receive her back.
OK, so now I would like to ask anybody who wants to just stand up, and give us a remembrance of Heather, how great a person she was in your life – so that she remains with us for the rest of our lives.
At the end of this celebration, we’ll release these balloons into the sky, which by the way are bio-degradable; Heather would have wanted that. I brought some markers, so if you want to write a message on your balloons to Heather, you can do that. During that, we’ll play a song that had great meaning to Heather and my wife, she sang it to her ever since she was a small girl: “You are my sunshine.” And then, at the end we’ll play “Sunshine in my pocket” by Justin Timberlake, because it is such a good dance song, and maybe, if we are moved, we can all just dance to it, for Heather, and with Heather. She would have liked us to have a good time!
So I’ll end this, and I just say my own goodbye to Heather:
Heather I want to thank you for being a great teacher to me – you know what I mean.
I want to assure, that I am here for, and will take care of, Mom, you now that.
So I send my love, from my heart, to you.
Read this for some more context and the miracle of the star that happened on this same day, the signs continued.
Namaste — I bow to you and the Divine in you.
Copyright © Hanns-Oskar Porr