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My name is Annabel Ruffell and I am the founder of Journey for Earth, a global awareness company committed to inspiring change for humanity, the environment and animals, one choice at a time.

On a regular basis I am also going to be posting other peoples articles that I find inspiring – and also inviting people to submit a piece – on the topics of: environment, animals, humanity, health, parenting, and anything else that inspires thought, connection and supports us in being the best that we can be and living a life of love and truth.

Christine McDonald lives in Tillamook Oregon with her husband Bob and animal companions Sophie (dog), Louie, Sam, Joe (cats) and Gunnar (horse).  She is discovering the delight of language that originates from her soul, animals and nature.  She has worked as a soil scientist but more recently has found her love for animal communication.  She loves helping people explore their relationship with their animal companions to unravel health and behavior issues, animals in transition and animals who are now in spirit. She is currently working on a spiritual memoir.  You can learn more about Chris by going to her website at http://www.animals-in-spirit.com


How I found my Roots in Brazil

My father used to take my family to the biggest tree on the ranch as if it was a national park. We would look up into the lofty limbs of the aging ponderosa pine and calculate how much sky filtered through the branches. We gathered around the base of the trunk and with outstretched hands measured the circumference. Some of my fondest memories are of visiting the “big tree” and watching the sunset from the tailgate of a rusted Ford pick-up as we bounced our way home over rutted jeep trails.

The big tree felt like it was a part of my family. I knew the tree thrived on the north slope in well-drained dark soils derived from limestone. I knew cougars and bears had shredded the bark with their claws. A lightning strike had left a deep scar, and burn marks left us wondering if this tree had survived the fire of the early 1900’s.

I knew more about that pine than my own family tree. My parents were first generation American and my grandparents came from the Slavic region of Europe.   My grandparents brought their Slavic tongue, customs of preparing traditional foods, and strong bodies that worked the land to support a growing family. A few sepia colored photos in a scrapbook my grandmother carried from Slovenia made it to Montana, the faces of which I know little about.   I cannot recall a single story about my great grandparents, their way of life, or the myths that shaped their connection to God, each other, animals, or nature.

I began to question my family origins when my sister Cecile died in Brazil. I accompanied her on a healing journey to cure the cancer in her body. We traveled to the small community of Abadiania in central Brazil to see the Brazilian healer John of God. John of God has been a medium for healing for over 50 years. He is internationally recognized and is visited by tens of thousands of people every year.

While in Brazil I learned to trust the synchronicity of events. There are “no mistakes;” four of my family members had a significant connection to Brazil. In an effort to heal the loss of my sister I wrote about the experience. A manuscript awaits my time, creativity, and focus. The question remains. Why did my sister die in Brazil? Is there an ancestral connection that brought her there? Is there a spiritual family we connect with after we die?

Easter Sunday, Abadiania Brazil

Walking on the red, clay rich soils had been very grounding to me since I came to Brazil, ten days ago. The need to connect with the earth was one of my first thoughts Easter morning as I arose from my bed at Hotel San Rafael. The only company I desired was the stillness of early morning and the smells and sounds of nature. The past few days of supporting my youngest sister Cecile, on this journey had shaken me to my very core. There were repeated trips to the hospital in Brasilia, custom and language barriers with hospital administrators and doctors, abnormal schedules, sleeplessness, a depleted bank account, and the uncertainty of knowing if my sister would make the journey back to her home and children in northern California.   All of these things exhausted me.

I slipped on my sandals and grabbed a light jacket as I made my way out the front door of Hotel San Rafael.   The sun was just coming up as I walked down the ochre dusted road that went past the Casa where John of God performed his miracles, past Spirit Hill, and out to the rolling open hills.

The air was cool on my exposed legs and arms, and I was grateful it made no demands on me. For the first time in several days I felt like I could release the heavy hearted feeling in my gut and let go of being a caretaker and take care of me. The sun cast a golden glow on the surrounding hilltops and the stillness was broken and ablaze with the sound and sight of a variety of birds. A ghost colored hawk flew in front of me as I descended the road past Spirit Hill. Three brightly colored macaws flew over on a direct flight north as I crossed the first cattle guard. Five coal black vultures, unbothered by my presence, perched in small trees as I walked past a shrubby valley draw. The harder to see warblers, parrots, and finches made up for their small size by filling the air with songs of joy. I wondered if the birds were orchestrating their own Easter celebration.

As I glanced back at Spirit Hill I thought of Cecile. On her second day in Brazil she had walked the same road from Hotel San Rafael to Spirit Hill. How was she doing this Easter morning? Had her condition changed since I was with her in Brasilia the previous night? Could this holy day be the day Cecile wakes-up and heals from the cancer in her body? Or could this be the day she decides to leave her body behind?

I kept moving, taking in the beautiful morning. More thoughts and feelings arose, as I continued on my journey. The more I moved my body, the less dense I felt. The tightness in my gut started to soften. I wished I could leave the trauma of the painful memories of Cecile in the hospital in the dust of my tracks. But leaving the trauma felt like abandoning my sister, so I hung on.

The birds seemed to carry me forward with their songs. Even though Cecile was over a hundred miles away, it did not feel that way. I felt her presence. Thoughts of her vulnerable and cancer ridden body melted into seeing her body healed.   I saw her body whole and free of pain. I could see her being part of this Brazilian landscape and in a family with strong spiritual connections to the Casa. I saw her happy, healthy and doing the things she loved.

Her essence and presence felt so palatable and so connected to the soil I traversed; I had to wonder if there was some connection with Brazil that brought members of my family here. When my father passed in September of 2010, some of his cremated remains were taken to John of God during a visit to New York City. John of God was on a healing tour, and my oldest sister Bev, unbeknown to the rest of the family, asked the Casa volunteers to take his ashes back to Brazil. I do not know if they ever made it to Brazil, but the intention was there. Bev has visited John of God three times on healing journeys. She took family photos, and put them in the prayer triangles, brought back herbs, rosaries and gemstones. Bev talked about her trips for months before and after she returned.   She had the strongest connection to Brazil and was outspoken about the spiritual significance of John of God.

Odd circumstances and intentions had brought family members to Brazil in a short time frame. Was there a deeper older connection with this land? What I knew of my ancestors, they all came from the Slavic area of Europe.   I could feel something significant about Brazil in our family lineage, but there were few to no obvious clues.

On a spiritual journey to Greece, two years earlier, I had a powerful connection with an ancient site called, Dedonna.   I was on a sacred journey with a small group led by my spiritual teacher. Dedonna is located in the high rocky mountains of Greece. The limestone rock outcrops reminded me of the mountains in Montana where I grew up. As a small group of us meditated at a sacred site I began to hear words I had never heard before. They seemed to come pouring out of the rocks as if they had been waiting for me for hundreds of years. The language could have been Portuguese.   Perhaps my ancestors from Europe traveled to Brazil to explore this land. If I knew more about my family’s history these thoughts might not seem so illogical, but I didn’t. I kept walking.

The sun was starting to warm my back as I stepped over the iron rails on the fourth cattle guard. A small herd of Brahmin cows near the gate were relaxing and chewing their cuds undisturbed by my presence. As I continued on, Cecile’s presence became more real, as if she was right there beside me. I thought about how the cancer brought us to Brazil. This trip might not have happened under normal circumstances. Cecile wanted to be healed. Traveling this far from home when she was so sick took courage and faith. Her gratitude for the cancer allowed Cecile to embrace her own healing. In my heart I could feel the deeper healing possible because she was here among a spiritual community with deep roots into something I was only beginning to comprehend. I had to wonder if this was our spiritual family, if you could own such a thing.

The world of spirits, angelic guides or entities was more real here in Brazil. I was coming to understand, life takes on a new meaning when death is accepted and embraced for what it is. A beautiful transition into the world of spirits that defines the way you lived, the lessons learned, and the gifts you gave and received.   I knew that the healing possible for Cecile in Brazil went beyond the physical body. I smiled as I thought of the significance of Cecile’s soul being healed. She need not repeat the same painful lessons in the next lifetime. The outcome from this journey was between Cecile, her spiritual guides and God.

I looked back at the small community of Abadiania and heard the small and subtle signs of the community waking up. If I was to attend the Easter mass at the Casa, I needed to start my journey back over the four cattle guards, past the grazing Brahmin cows and up Spirit Hill to Hotel San Rafael.

As I walked up to the entrance of Hotel San Rafael, I noticed the owner’s truck parked out front and wondered why he was at the hotel so early on a sacred day. I also wondered if he had news about Cecile. As I approached the lobby, our trip leader and guide, Josie was waiting for me near the entrance of Hotel San Rafael.

Josie motioned me over to the wooden bench she sat on. I sat down next to her. She took my hand, looked me in the eyes and said, “Cecile has died”. I did not know what to say. She went on to say, “She passed at sunrise at 6:00 AM”. I asked her what happened. She said, “Cecile’s heart stopped. The doctors tried to save her, but they couldn’t.”

I would need to let family and friends know Cecile died. I called my husband Bob in Oregon, always grateful he was there to pick up the phone. I called my sister Gina in Montana. The children were with Jeff and so I called him too. I don’t remember what I told them. There were many more family members and friends who were following this journey and they would need to know. Plans were already in place to return to the hospital in Brasilia to process the death certificate. I wanted support before I made the journey. I decided to send out a group email to the 40 friends and family members who would want to know about Cecile’s death.

I wondered how to capture the essence of what needed to be said in a few sentences and in a few minutes. My mind was racing and fragmented as I typed. I felt alone and isolated in this foreign land. I struggled to find the words to express my feelings. Each word I typed felt like it was being dropped into wet cement. I wondered, is this really real? I kept asking myself, “how might Cecile want family and friends to hear of her transition?’ I finished the email and hit SEND.

Easter Blessings,

You may have already heard that Cecile transitioned this morning at 6:00 AM. It was her heart. They attempted resuscitation but were not successful. I saw her last night about 7:00 PM. She was peaceful and well taken care of at the hospital. I said some prayers and told her what I could remember about the day she was born. Cousin Pat coming to babysit, dad’s awkward attempts in the kitchen until mom and Cecile came home from the hospital, Janice holding her, and everyone going to the hospital to see her.

One of the last things I told her was to surrender to God whether it is a healing or transition. And I knew last night when I returned to Abadiania that she was making her choice. I hope that you will join me in honoring her choice to leave her body and that she chose to do it here. How perfect that she chose Easter Sunday, resurrection day.

I will be leaving shortly to go to Brasilia to begin the paperwork. She will be cremated and I will bring the ashes back with me. I would like to spread ashes here in Brazil. Please pray that it all goes smoothly and continue to gather to pray for Cecile.

My love to you.


Josie was at the door letting me know the car was ready to take us back to the hospital in Brasilia. I picked up my travel bag and a few things to take with me. She held my hand as we walked down the long hallway to the office where we met a local funeral home employee. He would drive us the 75 miles to Brasilia and move Cecile’s body out of the hospital until it could be cremated. Two weeks later I was on my way back to Oregon with her ashes.

Being in Brazil with Cecile as she faced her death changed my life in many ways.   I believe we were guided there to heal at a soul level. Connecting with our spiritual family opened the door for Cecile in ways I can only imagine. Our last walk together down Spirit Hill confirmed the significance of this journey. The healing she desired happened. For months after returning to The States, whenever I saw birds they reminded me of Cecile. The birds had welcomed her home.




What Journey are YOU on?