EPONA with fabulous beast from a funeral stone in Gaul
EPONA with fabulous beasts from a funeral stone in Gaul

The hospital bed had been a place of turmoil for much of the day. My mum was pulling at the leads in her arm and the plastic face mask feeding her oxygen. Her condition had worsened since my visit the previous day. She had been poorly but able talk and ask about my journey from Wales to Lincoln. But now she was distracted, the world and its pains becoming too much to bear. When I came back later that evening she seemed hardly to know me. The duty doctor took me aside and indicated that I could stay after visiting time as she was unlikely to last the night. So I sat by the bed, curtains drawn around us, the machine occasionally flashing red and beeping as I held her hand to be with her in her travails.

It began to seem that the tubes and machines were an intrusion into an inevitable process, no longer useful in keeping her alive but hindering her passing, obstacles to her journey out of this life. I know that one of her feeds was giving her pain relief, and she would have been worse without it, but she seemed to be fighting them off, wishing to be free of the encumberance of them. I wished her a better journey, to walk the paths out of this life more serenely.

I thought of a Gaulish funeral stone I had been looking at recently, showing Epona leading one of the dead through a host of fantastic animals, walking the paths of the dead as a guide. Could I help her find these paths? We could not talk now, although I said reassuring things not knowing if she even heard them. But she did respond to my hand holding hers and gripped it for support. So I held on and imagined her walking with Epona through those dark ways surrounded by strange sights, perhaps bewildered but yet knowing she was led on the right path, the way she had to go.

The lights in the ward went off for the night, with only the background night lights still on. Her breathing became less laboured, as her light too faded and she seemed to be calmer. Her breaths were slower, more spaced out and she seemed almost peaceful, as if the fight was over and she could relax. The gaps between breaths lengthened and I knew her time had come. One more breath, almost a sigh as her head turned slightly to one side. Still I held her hand. The lights on the machine changed, not flashing now and a different colour, a single line of them, static and still. She too was still. A nurse came and looked at the machine. I said, ‘I think she’s gone’ and she turned to feel for a pulse at the neck. She nodded and went away before returning with a doctor. He too nodded and asked if I needed anything, more concerned with the living than the dead.

I needed a moment more, so they left me holding on still to her hand as I wished her well on her journey with Epona, that she should be led safely through the paths of the dead. Only then did I let go of her hand and gave her a farewell kiss before leaving her there looking so peaceful now, though sad to leave this life behind. Then, after saying what had to be said to the staff on the ward, I walked out into the strangeness of the night.


  1. corvusrouge says:

    I hope writing this has helped you, my good wishes are with you.

  2. May Epona guide your mother onward.

    Thinking of you and your family at this time.

  3. Snowhawke says:

    Greetings from across the sea. Thank you so much for sharing your experience. I am sorry for your loss. Sharing our experiences with the passing of loved ones is so important. They a true gift to our community. I honor your awareness, courage, and this powerful and beautiful piece of writing. Thank you for allowing us to share in your process. May the gods of our people strengthen and bless you and your family.

    Peace and inspiration,
    Kevin /|\

  4. S.C. Tanner says:

    I offer my condolences and respect. I have seen too many people (in the U.S.) find ways to avoid facing the death of a parent. They seem simply unprepared to deal with this aspect of life. For this reason, I respect anyone whose love for another gives them the strength of purpose to not let them pass over alone. It seems that well-grounded beliefs also make a difference in these matters. I am certain your mother well taken care of. May you also have peace.

  5. SteveT says:

    My own experience with my father convinced me that sometimes a spirit/soul knows when it’s time to move on. Even if I feel the loss myself, I remind myself that he was ready to move on and that the sorrow I feel is mine and not his. Your mother’s journey is hers to take and is assured: I wish you comfort through this difficult time in your own journey.

  6. Thank you for sharing this. So sorry to hear about your loss. Yet also inspiring to hear how you intuitively knew how to guide your mum with Epona down those dark ways, past those strange sights. Perhaps an art as Awenyddion, Druids, spiritual practitioners we should pay more heed to learning in view of the day it is our own turn to lead our loved ones in their passing?

  7. crychydd says:

    Thanks everyone for your comments and support.

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