My spiritual inspiration
Spiritual teacher Tess Whitehurst on lessons learned from her funeral director father
Spiritual teacher and author
Tess Whitehurst remembers the lessons she learned from her funeral director father
Afuneral home might not sound like the ideal place for a child, but growing up surrounded by death really taught me about life. With a funeral director for a father I thought nothing of playing in the back while he embalmed in the front, and spent hours imagining the lives of the bodies in the chapel. But it was Dad himself who taught me the most.
If me or my younger brother, Aron, lost or broke something, however expensive, Dad would just shrug it off. Every day he saw people grieving loved ones. He deeply understood that people mattered, not things. This showed itself in his generosity, and he often sponsored those who didn’t have the money for a funeral.
‘The more you give, the more you’ll get’ is still one of his mottos. ‘What you give comes back, multiplied,’ he says.
an open mind
Dad has always been really open-minded spiritually and when I was a kid he had several friends who were witches. I remember being fascinated when one showed me how her pendulum worked when I was five or six.
Both Dad and his own father have seen ghosts at the funeral parlour, too. One night, Dad was embalming a body when he saw lights that he assumed were from a car, although they were nowhere near a window. The lights began to glow and became multicoloured. Then Dad saw a vision of the man he was embalming. He was trying to tell Dad something but couldn’t make a sound.
Dad felt that the guy’s death was suspicious and suspected the message was, ‘I didn’t die the way they said I did.’
Another time, Dad arranged the funeral of a man who owned a local trucking company, whose trucks were turquoise, and the vase on his coffin turned from white to turquoise. It seemed like the guy wanted people to know that he was still here!
Mum and Dad divorced when I was four and every Sunday night Dad would drive me and Aron home after spending the weekend with him. The journey took 40 minutes and as we travelled, Dad would always challenge us with philosophical questions. Did we think reincarnation was a possibility? Was the universe really infinite? We lived in central California, in a flat valley surrounded by the Sierra Nevada mountains, under vast starry skies. Something about the landscape lent itself to big discussions.
activating my gifts
As a child I thought everyone saw colours around people and sensed the souls of those who’d recently passed in the funeral home. So it wasn’t until I was about 20 that I started developing my gifts. By then I’d moved to Pasadena, near Los Angeles, to study acting. Suddenly I was able to get to metaphysical bookshops and learn more about psychic phenomena. Now I work as an author and spiritual teacher, and love it.
a sacred calling
Dad has just turned 70 and still works at the funeral parlour. For him it is less a job, more a sacred calling. He’s lived a life in service and I strive to be just like him. In my daily meditation I set the intention to be a divine channel to help others.
Of course, my ego wants my book to do well or for me to make more money, but I remind myself that’s not the point. It’s about the joy of service, being truly present as a support to others, just like Dad.
More info You Are Magical by Tess Whitehurst (£14.99, Llewellyn Publications) is available now.