Two themes run through my life — music and healing. As a young child I was surrounded by music. My mother was a wonderful pianist and teacher; my older brother and sister played cello and violin, respectively; my father, the only non musician loved music inordinately. There was always music playing somewhere in our house, whether it was on the radio, record player, someone practicing, or my mother playing or teaching a student. I loved music, innately understanding it as a spiritual language. I started to play the violin when I was around 9 years old and ultimately became a professional violinist, earning my living as an orchestral musician.
Yet, from early on in my professional life I recognized that I was not going to find my personal fulfillment as a free lance orchestral player. I embarked on a quest to explore other options, hoping to find something that would satisfy my sense that I had come to this life to help people, to be of service in the world. I came to realize that I had a gift for healing. Starting with hands on healing, I progressed to other modalities, including whole brain integration work, flower remedies, healing with sound, distance healing - learning about these things as I strove to heal myself: physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually. The things I learned in order to help myself I shared with others.
One of the systems I studied was a technique specifically designed to help animals, called TTouch. After receiving my certification in TTouch it occurred to me that I could use other healing modalities with animals, as well and started including flower remedies, emotional balancing, distance work and finally, helping dying animals, acting as a midwife, as it were, to facilitate their birth into the next dimension.
After my mother died in 2000, I adopted her elderly cat, Blackie. I had a long history with Blackie, having originally found him as a tiny kitten in my parents' alleyway. Shortly after coming to live with me, Blackie developed cancer of the mouth. The disease was disfiguring and hard to witness as it inexorably progressed. Yet, amazingly, Blackie himself, intent on enjoying every single moment of life transmitted a sense of peace so vast it filled my apartment, inspiring me and every one who came to visit. A Classical music lover like the rest of my family, Blackie passed away peacefully while listening to a Beethoven cello sonata.
Unbelievably, almost exactly a year later, my beloved cat Vivvy, just 10 years old, contracted the very same type of cancer. Knowing what was in store, I was filled with dread. Blackie had been a strong warrior cat, a survivor of the streets of Brooklyn, but Vivvy was delicate and sensitive. I worried about how Vivvy would respond to this challenge.
Vivvy surprised me. She was the equal of Blackie, facing her deteriorating health with fortitude and grace. Her timid personality disappeared and a soulful, saintly presence emerged. Like Blackie, a vast peace emanated forth from Vivvy. She never exhibited fear or anxiety. Our time together over the next couple of months, although very emotionally painful for me was also precious and profound. Vivvy died at home on September 19, 2001. That evening as I was walking I looked up and saw a cloud in the evening sky with the face of my mother and knew Vivvy was in good hands.
In my work with dying animals I have experienced over and over the beauty and sacredness of death. It seems tragic to me that we live in a society so phobic and fearful of dying that we often miss the profound gifts that so often accompany this sacred event. I believe we can learn a lot about dying from the animals.
In 2001, shortly after Vivvy's death I started composing short pieces for violin and piano, each dedicated to a person or animal who had died. I called them "Musical Memorials." I hoped that listening to these pieces would instill a sense of peace and healing. I recorded six of them and have included them on this website. After a while I stopped writing memorial compositions and started spontaneously composing/improvising solo violin pieces in ceremonies. I have particularly loved playing in ceremonies because I feel that music is a language that speaks directly to the soul and a healing force in itself.
A couple of years ago two friends honored me by asking if I would perform their wedding ceremony. I became a celebrant and went down to City Hall to register as a marriage officiant. We met to discuss how they envisaged their marriage ceremony and composed a service reflecting their vision. They wrote their own marriage vows. The wedding was personal and intimate — and freezing cold! The ceremony was held in the garden of their favorite restaurant in the dead of winter, as per their wishes. Celebrating their marriage with them was one of the high points of my life.
Shortly after that I was again asked to perform a wedding ceremony — of a relative, this time. The three of us brainstormed and the ceremony that emerged was a very different, and in this case, much more minimalist ceremony — fortunately, held indoors.
Both couples were thrilled with their weddings, as was I. I feel that it was the involvement of both of these couples in creating their own ceremonies that made the ceremonies so special and meaningful.
Yet, much as I enjoyed helping people create and celebrate wedding ceremonies, my deepest desire was to help people create and celebrate memorial services for their beloved animal companions. All too often after the death of their animal bosom buddies people are left unsupported and have to cope with their feelings of loss on their own. Our culture understands the value of ceremony when people die, but has fallen short in the case of pets, although feelings of grief can be just as great, even greater at times, upon the death of a companion animal. I believe that bereaved people need to be able to mourn the loss of their pets in company, sharing their grief, memories and love with others.
Additionally, I am motivated by a great wish that we honor the animals who have enriched our lives. My own life has been immeasurably deepened by my relationships and love of my animal family. Those who have passed away still live on in me in my love of them.
Ultimately, this website is inspired by love. And love should be celebrated. I encourage you and support you in creating a form of honoring and celebrating those you have loved.