The Anniversary of a Best Friend’s Sudden Death and What I’ve Learned About Loss

By | 2017-10-19T09:31:32+00:00 September 7th, 2017|Spiritual Teachings|22 Comments

As the one-year anniversary of my dear friend’s death is nearing, I can’t help but reflect on how it has affected me. In doing so I feel enormous gratitude for the support of my family and friends; as well as the many teachings Samuel has given over the years that helped me make it through such a challenging year. In this blog post, I would like to share a bit of what happened, followed by some of what I’ve learned.

Last September we (EarthLight) put together a trip like no other we’d ever done. It was a small-group trip to swim with the wild dolphins of Bimini, and was limited to fourteen participants. We said it would be a “bucket-list trip” and a fall equinox with Samuel “you’d never forget.” The latter was certainly true.

On September 20, 2016, twelve of us were on day three of a trip of a lifetime. After an afternoon swimming with the wild dolphins, we dropped anchor about 3 miles off the shore of Bimini and spent the night at sea. It was a magical night. We sat on the top deck watching the amazing sunset, followed by star gazing and marveling at the Universe and how lucky we all were. The next morning we woke to beautiful skies and rainbows.

Soon after breakfast the dolphins were spotted and we were told to get ready for a swim. This is one of the advantages of a live-aboard experience—you can swim with the dolphins whenever they’re around and willing. It was our first full day of being on the water with the dolphins and, by all indications, it would be a perfect day.

Heidi Collage

Artwork by Dina Shadwell © 2016

If my memory serves me correctly, seven of us entered the water plus two staff members. Other members of our party were on the boat and later said they could see dolphins all around us. The ship’s captain was trying to figure out how to maneuver the boat (and therefore those in the water as we were holding on to long ropes attached to the diving platform) into the optimal position. As the boat began moving us to a new position my friend, Heidi, apparently had some difficulties with her snorkel and inhaled some water. Almost immediately, one of our in-water staff members, Alex, was at her side helping her. I could hear Heidi speaking between sputtered coughs as she and Alex made their way back to the boat. I immediately sent energy (there was nothing else I could do) to Heidi and to Alex. I figured they’d be back to the boat soon and that Heidi would be fine and probably just needed to rest and catch her breath.

But as they made their way back along the safety line to the boat, things suddenly changed. When they were just a few feet away from the boat I heard one of the group participants on the boat say, “She’s turning blue!” and the captain of the ship bellowed, “Keep her head out of the water!” Soon after, they were on the boat’s dive deck administering CPR. Despite an hour or more of CPR by the crew and two of our participants, Heidi never gained full consciousness. Once ashore and at a local clinic, she was pronounced dead.

We were all heart-broken. Earthlight canceled the remainder of the trip. However, the group realized we all wanted to stay together and support one another through this hard time, so we all checked into the same hotel on the island. Needless to say we were all in shock.

The next morning the group met with Samuel and his words were comforting, taking some of the pain away from the sudden loss of our dear friend. I found some solace in hearing from Samuel that the decision to go was Heidi’s and that had she been revived and lived, her life would no longer have been the same. Her brain had been oxygen deprived for too long.

That’s the reader’s digest version of the events of September 21, 2016. Now I’d like to share some of what I’ve learned through this event, and how Samuel’s teachings have helped me since.

The Universe is always talking with us; we are never alone.

Samuel teaches that we are part of the Universe and that the Universe is always there to help us. On many occasions he’s asked us to pay attention to the world around us and to realize that the Universe communicates with us in many, often subtle ways, including through songs on the radio.

The morning after Heidi drowned, I woke up with chorus of Adele’s song, “Hello” in my head. After a while I mentioned this to Lea and she said she had been hearing the same song in her mind. The chorus of the song begins with “Hello from the other side.” We both felt this was Heidi saying “Hello” to us.

A couple of days later, zombie like, we took a taxi to the airport for our flight home and it seemed that the Universe was sending us more messages over the taxi’s radio. A couple songs I remember were “Pillowtalk” by Zayn Malik, the chorus is “It’s our paradise, it’s our war zone.” And that’s what Bimini seemed like at that moment. By all outward appearances we were in a tropical paradise, but inside it felt like we were in a war zone and we had just lost a comrade in arms. The other song I remember is Lady Gaga’s, “Perfect Illusion.” Samuel teaches us that our thinking the physical world is all there is is an illusion and there’s so much more to this experience than what our five senses can perceive. So, this reminder, in the form a song was perfect in letting me/us know that it was an illusion to think that Heidi was gone. Her spirit and love remained alive and as big a part of our hearts on that day as before.

Death is not the end and on that day the songs on the radio were giving me comfort as we cried ourselves to the airport listening to songs we felt were being handpicked for us to hear before we left the island of Bimini.

Forgiveness of self and others.

Heidi in Bimini

Heidi in Bimini

I’ve also learned from Samuel that acceptance of Source, Self and Others is critically important in the forgiveness process. Almost immediately after Heidi’s transition, I felt myself blaming the Universe, self, and others.

How could the Universe “allow” this to happen? Heidi was a Guardian doing important work in the world. Surely the Universe had made a big mistake. Things like this weren’t supposed to happen to people in Samuel’s work! Obviously I had a lot of forgiving Source to do.

Not everyone in our group got in the water that morning and Heidi wasn’t planning on it but changed her mind at the last minute. I blamed Heidi for joining the swim even though she told us the night before that she wouldn’t do a rope swim again because it was too physically challenging for her.
And I also blamed myself for creating the experience that led to Heidi’s death. There were so many “what ifs” I berated myself with: What if I had chosen a different supplier; what if we hadn’t trusted the website, the references, and the conversations with the captain; what if I could have seen Heidi’s distress and been able to pull her out of the water faster; what if Heidi didn’t get in the water that morning; what if we had done a free swim instead of a rope swim … what if I had the power to change how everything turned out on that awful day?

In my mind there was plenty of blame to go around, eventually I realized that my blaming Source, Self and others, was my way of not dealing head-on with what happened. I decided I could go on blaming and playing “what if,” or come to terms with what happened and deal with it.

The lesson I learned is that I had to forgive everyone, including Heidi, for the multitude of decisions that led up to her death.

Tell those you love that you love them.

I’ve learned from Samuel that we are pure Source energy and that the highest frequency of Source energy in this world is love. He encourages us to love in every moment and to express love not only in Intent, Thoughts and Deeds, but also in Words. What I learned from Heidi’s death is that you never know when you’re going to see or speak to someone for the last time in form, so be sure to express that love every chance you get in whatever way you can.

A precious memory that gives an example of that is from right before Heidi’s “accident.” We were all holding onto long ropes running off the back of the boat while the captain of the ship thought about how to put us in the best possible spot to have an awesome dolphin experience; Heidi was to my immediate right. I remember having an overwhelming feeling of love and joy in my heart at being able to swim with the dolphins and sharing the experience with her. At that moment, since we were all wearing a snorkel and speaking or hearing was next to impossible, I reached out and touched her, sending loving energy to her. It brings me comfort knowing that my last expression to Heidi was of full, abiding love of her and our time together. The lesson and what Samuel has taught us many times, is to love with an open heart and share expressions of love with others as much and as often as possible. I never know when it might be my last time to do so.

Now, I’m much more prone to telling friends and family that I love them. I no longer want it to be assumed or unspoken. I’ve found that many people are open to hearing those words and often give them back.

Don’t take things for granted and be grateful.

Gratitude is KeyTaking things for granted is easy for humans to do. I often live under the false impression that things will remain the same forever, even though I know that they won’t. Life and circumstances are constantly changing around me every day. It seems I have a long list of things I could take for granted, my family, friends, pets, health, job, home.

I often don’t appreciate something until I no longer have it in my life. I didn’t think I took Heidi’s love and friendship for granted, but it wasn’t until after her death I realized I hadn’t fully appreciated how much I depended on her constant friendship, support, and love in my life. She had been a close friend for 25 years. We spent nearly every holiday and birthday together for the last 20 of those years. We “got” each other and travelled the world together. I knew we had a special relationship (we considered each other adopted family), but it wasn’t until she was no longer living in this world that I realized I hadn’t fully appreciated her presence in my life. Her death left a hole in my life.

Repeatedly, Samuel has reminded us to find gratitude every day. I find doing so helps me take stock of the gifts and blessings in my life. Since Heidi’s death, I find myself taking stock more often and being grateful for my life, my friends, my family, my health, and all the good things I have in my life. Gratitude is a powerful way for me to not take people and things for granted.

Death is not the end.

As a part of my work with Samuel, I understand and know that this world creates the illusion that only those things I can see, hear, touch, smell, and feel is all there is to life, yet I know that Heidi’s Spirit lives on, beyond her death. Of course her Spirit incorporates the Heidi I knew, but is so much more.

Even when they have died, communication continues with our loved ones. I’ve had several experiences this past year in which I knew Heidi’s spirit was reaching out to me. One of those ways is through dreams. Heidi has visited me in a number of dreams throughout the year. Most recently in a dream I asked her how she could be here when she died (I think I always ask that, Duh!), and she said she had learned how to create a body but couldn’t sustain it for very long. She created a body so she could spend the weekend with us. Each time I have a dream like this it reminds me that she’s still alive, but just in a density without physical form.

I know that Heidi and I are connected, even interconnected in the web of life, and that when I leave this world, she will be there to greet me singing, “Welcome to the other side!”

Do what you love and love what you’re doing.

Heidi’s death was a reminder that we never know the time we will make our transition back into spirit. I’ve replayed over and over in my head the events leading up to Heidi’s drowning. Maybe it’s my brain trying to make sense of what happened. But as I do, I recall more and more details about that trip and that day. The thing I remember most was the love we experienced together—the sunrises and sunsets on the ocean, the morning rain and resulting rainbows in the Caribbean skies, the laughs, the excitement, and the anticipation of going into the ocean again in hopes of joining our cetacean friends.

Each and every moment could be my last. Over the past year, I’ve tried to spend my time doing what I love with people I love, and for the times when I’m unable to do that for whatever reason, I consciously put love into whatever I’m doing. Since what I’m doing right now might be the last thing I do, it makes sense to me to make it the most loving it can be. There’s little to be gained by not doing so, and there’s so much to be gained by doing it. I never know what my last impression or last conversation with someone will be.

There’s so much more I could write about regarding things I’ve learned as a result Heidi’s death, but I think this post if already long enough. It is my hope that sharing some of my journey and these teachings and reminders from Samuel will bring comfort and peace to you if you’ve lost a loved one. If you’d like to share what you’ve learned about loss (Heidi’s or others), please, help get the conversation going by posting a comment below.

About the Author:

Stuart is the vice president of EarthLight and lives with his family, Lea and Frank Schultz, and Hapi Magic (a standard poodle) in Lexington, KY. He enjoys bringing Samuel's message of unconditional love and personal transformation to the world.


  1. Susmita Barua November 21, 2017 at 5:42 pm - Reply

    Hi Stuart, I am recovering from my D & C surgery yesterday. Wanted to connect with Samuel last Sunday and here I am reading your post. Death will not be so painful once we fully remember we are a living breathing spirit here now. We just lose our physical body. I had the most lovely memories of spending time with dolphins in a partly enclosed pool with my daughter in Orlando. Unexpected loss is always difficult to accept but it was acceptable at some deep level to Heidi. When my father died in 1981, I was 21, I would often see him in my dreams still doing his paperwork on bed as if he never died. I would even ask him in those dreams quite forcefully, why he had to fake death and put us through so much grief, funeral etc. He would not say anything just kept doing his work….I felt he really did not die. And to prove to myself I have no fear of spirit/ghost I slept in his bed in his room the night he died by myself peacefully with all lights turned off. Death reminds us the preciousness of this physical life and every interaction. I do remember Heidi’s friendly face and we spoke a few times. Happy thankgiving to all my Phoenix friends and especially to Earthlight Lea, You, Frank and Happy.

    • Stuart Waldner November 21, 2017 at 6:13 pm - Reply

      Dear Mita, thanks for reading my post and for leaving a comment. I’m sorry your father passed when you were at such a young age. I imagine that was difficult for your entire family. As for Heidi, I believe you’re right that on a deep level it must have been agreeable to her. We miss her everyday, but it gets easier. Happy Thanksgiving to you, too!

  2. Terrie Cobb September 29, 2017 at 12:19 am - Reply

    Think of Heidi and each of you with love ❤️ I no longer live in a town with any of my Phoenix family, but my heart is still connected to you all. I felt Heidi’s passing deeply and I felt her joy. Love to you all.
    Terrie ( no longer in Pittsburgh.)

    • Stuart Waldner September 30, 2017 at 2:05 pm - Reply

      Thanks, Terrie, for your comment. It’s great to hear from you. Your love and support is much appreciated and sent right back to you and yours! We still feel connected to you, too. 🙂 Love and hugs!

  3. Terri Bourne September 8, 2017 at 3:50 pm - Reply

    Stuart your blog is so healing to me. I can feel the depth of your grief and the courage of your healing. So many of us experience gut wrenching grief in loosing Heidi. Your reminders are powerful and so full of hope and joy. I love you.

    • Stuart Waldner September 8, 2017 at 8:05 pm - Reply

      Dear Terri, words cannot express what your comments mean to me. I’m still crying. Thank you and so much love!

  4. Crystal Doll September 8, 2017 at 10:38 am - Reply

    Thank you for this beautiful information around the loss of Heidi during the Bimini trip. We in Pittsburgh were devastated to hear what was happening on the trip when the call for prayers and healing energy went out via texts and emails. We could only imagine what those on the trip were experiencing from the safety of our homes. Many Pittsburgh folks gathered at our home so that we could share our shock and grief that same evening. It was good to be with people who knew and loved Heidi as much as we did. Thank you, too, for recounting Samuel’s message to the folks there on the day after. We were blessed to hear his talk with you folks via tape at the home of Katie and Bruce Garry a week or so later, once again providing us the opportunity to share our emotions with our dear friends from Phoenix Pittsburgh. Much love to you for sharing your heart and your gifts with us.
    With love and gratitude, Crystal

    • Stuart Waldner September 8, 2017 at 8:02 pm - Reply

      Dearest Crystal, thanks for your comments and for sharing what you and others in Phoenix Institute, Pittsburgh experienced around this time last year. It’s hard to believe it’s already close to one year. It’s so wonderful that y’all were able to get together on multiple occasions to love and support each other through this. I’m so glad that you found comfort, too, in what Samuel said about Heidi’s transition. I know it was a big help for me.

  5. Angela Henson September 8, 2017 at 10:29 am - Reply

    Dearest Stuart,

    Your beautiful, deeply thoughtful post touches my heart and makes me think of Heidi and her passing in the most loving ways. Even though I was not present on that particular trip to Bimini last year, your descriptions give a vivid sense of “being there,” which is so helpful.

    Thank you for writing this post, and while it is timely in terms of the one-year anniversary approaching, it is also timely in that many of the Tribe will soon be gathering for a group trip. This current trip to Arkansas is an opportunity for us to be together, expressing our love and gratitude for each other as we do Samuel’s Work.

    During the past year or so since Heidi left, I’ve been learning to communicate with her often. I remember soon after she left that I asked her to please make herself known to me. There was a warm, open glow in my heart area that unmistakably had her energy signature in it. It made me smile and weep because I knew that she had heard me and that she was there with me. Since then, even though there have been many moments of sadness because she is not physically here with me and us, in her familiar physical form, laughing, loving, being such a dear friend, I have come to realize that she really is always right here. It has been a year of realizing that Spirit never ends in a real and experiential way.

    A few years ago, a dear friend and colleague, Tess Yonk, left her physical form after a difficult bout with cancer and intestinal difficulties. While I knew that it was her choice to leave and that she really needed to go as her form would no longer support her Spirit, it was a shock nonetheless. I’d work with her side by side for nine years, and suddenly she was not in the office next to mine. I knew that her Spirit was always present, and yet it took some time for me to come to terms with the loss of her physical presence. Amazingly, she actually helped me with that!

    She would often speak to me and remind me that she was there, always. She also helps me with my work at the office when I need to do something that she would have done, and I don’t know quite how to approach it. All I do is ask for her help, and sometimes I hear her speaking to me and guiding me through. It’s wonderful. I keep a photo on my office wall of Tess laughing as she is sitting in a boat in Malta. If I need a reminder of her, I can glance up and see her laughing, and it makes me smile. By now, I find that we talk as much as we ever did before.

    Learning this with Tess, and keeping our friendship going between the densities, has helped me with accepting the loss of dear Heidi. Knowing how close Tess and I still remain has helped me to establish friendship anew with Heidi as she, too, lives in different dimensions now, with the greater parts of ourselves.

    I’ve grieved and still do sometimes, not having Heidi her to hug and laugh with, and to experience her great sense of humor. I feel close to both Tess and Heidi, and am continuing to learn about the Oneness of all of us with All-That-Is, and it seems to be made more personal for me with these Spirit friendships. Yet, knowing that this life of mine is only for a little while, I feel so glad to know that Tess and Heidi are continuing their work in different realms, and can help to guide me while I live my life on behalf of the Greater Plan, here on the planet.

    There are still tears falling from time to time, along with smiles at the memories of times we shared together. It’s still a learning process that continues to unfold of how to both accept the loss of physical form and move into the spiritual aspects of friendship without those physical forms present. It gives me a sense of comfort and joy to realize that friendships like these can and do continue, and continue to grow even from realms unseen. I know that Spirit never ends, and our friends never end, either, even though we may not be able to see them as we used to.

    • Stuart Waldner September 8, 2017 at 7:47 pm - Reply

      Dearest Angela, thank you so much for your inspirational comments. They brought me both comfort and insight. Your’e so right about the timely nature of things. I agree it does seem fitting that many of us will soon be together doing our spiritual work in Arkansas. I know that Heidi and Tess will both be with us in spirit.

  6. Suzanne McIntosh September 8, 2017 at 9:45 am - Reply

    Thank you, Stuart, for sharing your experience, thoughts, and insights and for doing it so beautifully. I too have felt Heidi with me, and she often encourages me to “get over it” when I’m berating myself.


    • Stuart Waldner September 8, 2017 at 7:35 pm - Reply

      Dearest Suzanne, I can just hear Heidi saying that! lol Thanks for your comment. Love, love, love!

  7. Jennifer Little September 8, 2017 at 9:36 am - Reply

    Thank you for a post that was probably difficult while joyful to write and post. To take a wider of view of our relationships, of the changing and evolving nature of ourselves and others and the roles we play in each others’ lives, to grow alongside (an)other(s) as we live brings meaning and wisdom to each of us. Sharing what we have learned helps others move through the changes in their lives; I am grateful for your presence, views and knowledge.

    • Stuart Waldner September 8, 2017 at 7:33 pm - Reply

      Dear Jennifer, I am grateful for your presence in my life, too! You hit the nail on the head when you said that it was both joyful and difficult. Thanks for commenting. Love to you!

  8. Bonnie Haley September 8, 2017 at 9:20 am - Reply

    So beautiful Stuart. Thank you for sharing your very personal feelings and insights about Heidi and her “death”. I remember feeling some of the same things you felt and wondering how the Universe and Samuel would let Heidi leave us. I’m still processing the loss and your words comfort me.
    Bonnie H

    • Stuart Waldner September 8, 2017 at 7:25 pm - Reply

      Thanks for your comment, dearest Bonnie. I’m touched that this post brought you comfort. I think we’re not alone in wondering how this could have happened, but it’s a powerful reminder that all we really have is each moment. Love and hugs!

  9. Bob Mustin September 8, 2017 at 12:35 am - Reply

    “Don’t it always seem to go/That you don’t know what you’ve got til its gone…” That’s from Joni Mitchell’s “Big Yellow Taxi.” The best writers have the ability to sum up aspects of human life in ways that touch us all. From Stuart’s post, it’s clear that he felt this way in the days following Heidi’s passing. I too felt that in the first days following my wife’s passing. But there was a quirk in my loss that bears on the teachings of Samuel that Stuart has shared. The morning my wife died, I told her not to stick around for me; just go. But another thought tickled my consciousness, and I found myself saying to her, “If it’s possible, come back just once to tell me you’re okay.” About a week later she did – her voice filled my head and I heard her excitement at her wondrous new world. Perhaps this isn’t unique to Guardians, but we KNOW loved ones like Heidi aren’t gone; they’ve simply taken on new “clothes” in a new reality. As we begin to understand that their inner light is immortal, we understand that they’re unique and lovely “sparks” of the Universe, that they still love us as much as we love them, that they’re always nearby. But what these transitions teach us in a practical sense is that life is short and precious, that we have to live fully in each succeeding moment. Samuel tells us the past is gone, there’s only each succeeding moment, and the implication is these moments are where life’s vitality lies. Stuart, I hope my partial recasting of your thoughts here adds to your solace at Heidi’s loss and your joy at living every moment left to you.

    • Stuart Waldner September 8, 2017 at 7:18 pm - Reply

      Thanks, Bob, for sharing your experience with your wife, Becca, and how it let you know that life continues, even after death. I was very touched and became teary eyed reading it. I look forward to spending moments with you soon in Arkansas!

  10. Diane September 7, 2017 at 10:59 pm - Reply

    Thank you for sharing this Stuart and maybe in the sharing you have lighten your hurt as well. The first thing that came to mind for me was when one door closes another one opens and I find myself pondering about this. May God continue to heal your heart and mind. Diane

    • Stuart Waldner September 8, 2017 at 6:53 pm - Reply

      Thanks, Diane, for sharing your thoughts with me. Writing this article was definitely cathartic for me (and I even questioned whether to publish it once it was written). You’re so right, doors do close, but windows always open. Love and hugs!

  11. Dina Shadwell September 7, 2017 at 10:43 pm - Reply

    Beautiful, Stuart. Nothing like the sudden death of a loved one to make you appreciate the present moment. Love to you, Earthlight, and to all of us who love Heidi.

    • Stuart Waldner September 8, 2017 at 6:47 pm - Reply

      You’re so right, Dina. The present moment is where all love and magic happen. I think I have a greater appreciation of that since Heidi’s passing and I hope that awareness never wanes. Love you back!

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