Totem: /ˈtōdəm/ noun; plural noun: totems: a natural object or animal believed by a particular society to have spiritual significance and adopted by it as an emblem.

“You do not choose a Spirit Guide as your personal spirit guide. The Spirit chooses you and they decide to whom they will reveal themselves and make their friend.”

“Each Animal has its own Medicine which is unique to that specific creature as gifted by the Great Mystery and its spirit cannot be chosen like the color of your car.”

“Discovering who your animal guides are is a process of paying attention to the spirits around you and following the signs. It is a process of developing your inner knowledge and spiritual understanding.”

Takatoka – Manataka American Indian

My father was diagnosed with dementia in August of 2010. Over the next two years, he would slowly fall into Alzheimer’s monstrous grasp. Dad knew he was losing what was left of his brain, his daily frustration towards the end becoming grossly apparent. I still remember the exact moment that he forgot my name, only to be followed by, “I know who you are, but what’s your name again?”

In June of 2012 we moved our parents to Mount Laurel, New Jersey, a town about 10 minutes from where I currently live. Aside from being more than an hour away from each child and the house being too large for an elderly couple, my father’s dementia caused him to become solely reliant on my mother – a wife who had spent the past 58 years of her life being solely reliant on her husband. It was a terrible move- it took three years to sell their house and purge 58 years-worth of lifelong treasures. My mother complained about how much she hated her new home (three years later she would insist on dying in that home). My father cried over his inability to remember where he lived, carrying in his wallet a small laminated note card I made for him showing his name, address and telephone number.

My father died suddenly on April 1, 2013. He suffered a pulmonary embolism while bringing in his recycling bin and collapsed in the driveway. My mother would later say she thought he was joking around – after all, it was April Fool’s Day…

I will admit, I felt relief for myself and my family, but mostly for my father. In the end, we knew he didn’t want to live his life this way. He was clear-headed enough to know what was happening to him and dreaded the day that his brain and body would be consumed by this horrible disease.

As my husband and I were leaving my mother’s house the day after my father died, a flock of wild turkeys ran from the side of a neighbor’s yard and right in front of our car. Although wild turkeys are not uncommon in our area, we were surprised by their sudden presence. For the entire week after until his funeral, wild turkeys came out of nowhere, running through my mother’s backyard and all around her neighborhood. Then the turkeys started showing up at my house…

I remember thinking at that time how I couldn’t feel dad’s presence anymore. When my sister died less than three years earlier, I felt her presence almost immediately and have felt her every day since. I started thinking about all dad’s silly sayings, “Take all you want, but eat all you take.” “For crying out loud!” and his all-time Thanksgiving favorite, “Pass the turkey, turkey.” That’s when it dawned on me – the turkeys were my father’s animal guides! All this time I was feeling his loss, but he was right there – I just wasn’t paying attention. I could now feel his presence, knowing he was right there with us, watching and guiding…

Wild turkey teaches you how to project your voice and your truths. It is important to know when to say your message, truths or opinion; and how to say it clearly and loudly enough that other people take notice.

After the funeral, the turkeys disappeared. I felt sad and hoped it didn’t mean dad was gone forever – now I truly felt his loss. Over the following days and weeks, riding my bike seemed to be the only way of comforting my sorrow. I had my go-to place (remember, it’s where I go when I don’t want to think about where I’m going), the Cooper River. One of the other things I like about this ride is that part of the route runs parallel to several dirt trails, offering off-road cycling with some interesting photo ops.

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Thinking again about my father, a lone turkey suddenly darted out from my right side, across the path in front of me and off to my left. It ran quick enough so that I didn’t need to brake and kept riding on through. And then I smiled with tears in my eyes…thanks daddy…see ya later!

“Bone for bone we are the same
Bones get tired and they can’t carry all the weight
We can talk until you can’t even remember my name
Daddy don’t you worry, I’ll do the remembering…”

Remembering – Ashley Campbell

“I had run for 3 years, 2 months, 14 days, and 16 hours.” – Forrest Gump

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