Inspirational Articles

When Death Touches Us

When Death Touches Us

Conscious Living Column

By Gord Riddell and Kathy Ryndak


For more than a decade, this column has explored many aspects of living from physical wellness, to emotional healing and spiritual awareness. We have endeavoured to promote, educate and inspire our readers to consider holistic approaches to enrich their lives. One area that has evaded our exploration and yet is so much a part of living is that of death and dying. This is one subject that is rarely spoken about or even acknowledged in most of our lives until we are touched by it.

This year Transformational Arts College has been touched not once, but twice, in the last few weeks by the deaths of two of our brightest shining souls. The passing of Chris Johnson on July 19th, and then recently of Maria Jankovic on September 6th, has deeply touched every student, faculty and staff member at the College.

While we knew that the inevitable passing of Chris was at hand when he entered Casey House, we had no imminent signs that Maria too one night would slip quietly into the next expression of life. They say that knowing that that someone is very ill and in some stage of the dying process makes it easier on those left behind. Perhaps this is true from a point of having a chance to say a final goodbye. However the death of someone close is a horrific loss no matter what the circumstances or the amount of notice may have been leading up to their passing. A loss is a loss no matter how we try to tell ourselves differently.

Chris and Maria both started their journeys at TAC as students. Chris had an inner light that shone through when he was a student in class. Chris worked hard and diligently, successfully completing the requirements in Spiritual Psychotherapy. After a period of practice he joined the Counselling Clinic at the College and became a faculty member in the Psychotherapy Program. He had flair and a passion for teaching and imparting knowledge to others. Eventually he also graduated from the Coaching Program, assimilating those ideas into his work with students and clients. After a while Gord started to hand over the Coaching Program to Chris, giving him yet another place to shine. Those who knew Chris at a personal level knew how hard he worked to change things in his life that no longer served him. He was a true role model for the embodiment of change and all that it can entail. The Coaching Program is now in the hands of our very gifted instructor, Clinic Co-ordinator and Senior Therapist Sue Diplock.

Maria started with Transformational Arts some 23 years ago when she arrived for her first Total Self Class with her charming mother, Yarmila. This tall, statuesque blond woman who burst into laughter with little coaxing, would begin a journey and commit herself to the College for literally the rest of her life.

Maria and her extremely close friend, Linda, the College’s Managing Director, together hold the title of most studied students ever! Maria and Linda attended, studied and graduated from every program, course, workshop and lecture held at the College. When they said they knew about a program personally, they meant it because both had literally attended everything.

Maria eventually moved into administration, becoming our Holistic Co-ordinator. Her passion for Holistic Health care and all things from Nature inspired many. She was also a faculty member with a special interest in the healing qualities of Crystal. She lived with an attitude that everything would work out but she also had this mischievous rebel who dwelled within and who would make it self known, just to make sure things did move along. She always had a kind word for students, a supportive ear with feedback for friends and a laugh with co-workers. Her energy in the office and classroom is sorely missed but will always be remembered.

The transition from the physical world to the spiritual is as profound a transformation as the birth of a child. While birth brings joy and happiness, death continues to instill fear and foreboding, yet both are true mysteries in this physical existence we all share. Our own fear of dying surfaces each time we are exposed to the transitioning of someone we know, (whether we are aware of it or not). Our experience drives home the importance of awareness and dialogue regarding our own mortality on planet Earth. Making personal plans for the eventual day when we too will pass over can help to give us a say and a sense of control in how our dying and death will be handled by and for us. Everything from end of life decisions to the kind of celebration you envision for yourself can and should be communicated to trusted people in your life.

End of life decision making is difficult but very necessary so that the burden does not fall on other people with decisions needing to be made at a very sensitive time.

Chris and Maria will live on in our hearts and we know their spirits will continue to inspire, uplift and bring a smile to all who come to the College, a place that became their second home and where they fulfilled their life purpose.