My Beloved Friend ~ Nora Cedarwind Young

Nora & Joanna, Beltane 1997, Lummi Island

My beloved friend and mermaid sister Nora Cedarwind Young is terminally ill. We don’t know how much time she has left. I am putting most of my business on hold as I move into the role of death midwife for her (though not I am not certified). It’s a role she has held for many others, including my own father.

I am spending several hours a day, most days, with Nora, sitting with her quietly, talking and laughing, singing to her, wrapping energy around her, and reading the messages and tributes to her that people are writing. The rest of the time I am helping her husband with logistical issues, fielding messages and phone calls, and trying to get some rest.

Each day I read more of the messages to her, and she laughs, and tells me stories about some of the people who are writing. She is deeply touched and a little overwhelmed by the outpouring of love and support. I have broken down and bawled more than once as I was reading the tributes to her. She smiled at me sweetly and fell asleep.

I have not yet been able to write my own tribute.

Today I told her that her husband Bud asked me to paint a mermaid on the lid of the cardboard cremation container that will hold her when the time comes. I also told her that on Wednesday, Spring Equinox, her local friends will gather to help to decorate the container. She immediately wanted to give me books and resources, as she has taught workshops on this very topic! So strange and yet so wonderful to be able to talk about this with her.

If you would like to read some of the tributes being written to Nora, they are on this public Facebook page and also on a “Nora Cedarwind Young Life Appreciation Page” that Selena Fox set up on the Circle Sanctuary site. Some of you have already commented and sent your love to me and to Nora, and you have my deepest appreciation.

I see that the news about Nora is spreading, with posts on the Wild Hunt and the Pagan Newswire Collective. I told one of her nurses today (with a twinkle in my eye), “Nora is kind of a big deal, you know.”

“Oh I do know,” the nurse replied, and Nora laughed her big belly laugh.

Her work with reclaiming end-of-life practices, green burials and home funerals has been an inspiration and solace to countless numbers of people.

But to me, she is my friend, my confidant, my beloved mermaid priestess sister.


This is the season of death and resurrection. My own beloved son died on a full moon in April, 24 years ago. Sometimes, when the Earth comes alive at Spring Equinox, we feel ourselves hovering in that liminal place between life and death and rebirth.

The Earth once again is our most profound Teacher and our Healer.

Blessed be.


Nora posed for the image below for me about ten years ago, and she later used it as the logo for her death midwifery work.

30 thoughts on “My Beloved Friend ~ Nora Cedarwind Young

  1. Beautiful! I too have not been able to write my tribute. My heart is breaking, trying to make sense of it all. Memories keep flooding my mind. Mostly of her and I jumping skyclad in the ocean waters and the rivers. Times I will cherish forever.

    1. Yes! Every time the nurses get her up out of bed, they start to tie her gown in the back, and she just laughs and says, “Joanna has seen me naked more times than we can count! Mostly in the river!” laughing, laughing, always laughing . . .

  2. This has got to be horrible, horrible timing…but ever since I was at Nora’s workshop on end-of-life stuff at PSG ’09, I have been interested in learning the work, maybe, of death midwifery. How does one? How can I find people in my area?

    Oh, Joanna…I am so sorry. You are so blessed, you and Nora, to be together for this.
    Nora, I love you, even though we never much got to know one another more than at PSG, I think we kind of did know one another on a deeper level of some kind. I had a trauma that year (’09) and haven’t been back to PSG since. I wish I could learn more from you. I am learning much from your process. I hope you remember me.

    Many, many blessings, both of you. Thank you for sharing that beautiful image. It captures Nora utterly.

    1. Thank you Maiasaura. I would start by looking at all the resources on Nora’s site. I know Nora was certified by Jerrigrace Lyons, so you can google her. I believe Angie Buchanan of Earth Traditions in Chicago is also holding trainings now. Blessings.

      1. Oh, good deal, Joanna, thank you! And for the speedy reply. I shall start reading.
        Nora–didn’t want to worry you– the trauma at PSG wasn’t medical or anything, or life-threatening, but the people I was camping with decided I was an abusive parent (!), and called CPS on me. *After* PSG. Without anybody going through any PSG avenues of help, or even telling me their concern while at PSG. So, that’s all, no worries, but I have been a little idgity about going, ever since. Coming home to strangers wanting to investigate me and my child was more than a little disconcerting.

        Anyway. Thank you again, Joanna, for the print. I made a photograph of it from my printer and it’s on my altar now. What a lovely image.

  3. Joanna,
    I lost my brother-in-law on Saturday just after I heard about Nora. My heart is breaking with this news. I have learned so much from her on my path as friend, Priestess, death mid-wife and child of the Goddess. I have so many more things to ask. So many more Skyclad rituals to do, none of which will be done without her energy. So many more hugs from my sister!
    I to will write a tribute to her. Please tell her I will not forget the compassion she gave me when my husband died. She told me then I knew exactly what to do for the ritual and she was right. I can never thank her for the teachings I have received.
    Kendall (Trinity)

  4. Joanna and Nora,

    I’m so sorry that your journey together through this life is coming to an end. My heart aches for you both. I have never met you, Nora, and know of you only what I have read on your website, or what I have read of you on Joanna’s blog, but I can tell that you are an amazing and wise person, and you are leaving such a beautiful legacy for us. Thank you!
    I am glad you two are able to spend this time together now. My thoughts and prayers for peace are with you both. Blessed be.

  5. Joanna, Thank you so much for the pdf of your beautiful Threshold picture.
    Though I do not know Nora, I will join in the radiance of love being sent her way as I look at it.

    My son died seven years ago yesterday, so I, too, have deep connection with the death/resurrection energies of Spring.

    Bless your sacred journey with Nora. I will hold you both in my heart.

  6. Ever wonder why we say “we lost” someone we love when that someone is not lost at all, but rather we are lost without her/him…? Know that both you and Nora are unconditionally, wordlessly and endlessly loved by countless others who envelope you with their heart and arms. You two will continue to smile and laugh together because mermaid sisters share an eternal bond that cannot be broken, ever. I’m sending all my love and warmhearted energy to you.

  7. dear joanna,
    so sorry to hear that your great friend and sister is approaching the final threshold of life…even though i have never met you or nora, your photo expresses all… joanna when we think of our dearly departed, they are always kept alive, always there with us in spirit. may your love and friendship last for eons… love and peace to you and nora at this very special and sacred time…many blessings, namaste…Sanshin.

  8. A friend of mine acted as a death midwife for my mother as she was on the scene when my mother died. She was a great source of comfort to me as I went through the milestones of first year without my mom on this plane of reality. i bow in honor of your willingness (the best training of all) to stand by your sister friend. And I hold you with so much love and support as you step into this role for a dear sister friend. Blessings on you and all who experience this journey. Ashe’ Amen and So it is!

  9. I read this blog post last week literally as my husband and I flew up to Idaho to sit with his father who is getting ready to pass. Like Nora, we do not know if it’s just days or weeks left but time feels like it is stretching to accomodate every last word that needs to be said and touch that needs to be felt.

    Thank you for sharing your experience with your beloved mermaid sister – it gave me solace and strength to be there for my husband at this time.

    Blessings to you, Nora and her loved ones.

    1. Jo, I’m so glad this post helped in your process with your father-in-law. Many hugs and blessings to you.

  10. Many of us have been blessed with having Nora in our lives. I count myself as one of the very, very blessed ones! Nora came all the way to Ohio, to teach a group of women the art of death/dying and death midwifery, during a weekend intensive. She shared her spirit, laughter, and incredible strength. She inspired me to move forward in my own ministry as an on-call chaplain for those on the Earth-Centered path, at our Cleveland Veteran’s Admin. Hospital and area hospitals. Our local green burial center, Foxfield Preserve, sent a book author, Bob Butz, my way, and I directed him to Nora. We are both in his book “Going Out Green”. I love this lady. May the Great Goddess hold you up, Joanna, in times of exhaustion, and may She carry Nora gently in her arms as she passes through the veil.

    1. Rebekah, so good to connect with another Death Midwife friend of Nora’s. Many blessings to you and your work, so important and needed. Blessed be.

  11. Joanna, thank you for posting this. After reading it, Bobbie and I went and posted our beloved thanks to Nora at the Circle Sanctuary page. You are a good sister and a true friend. We bless you for walking this path with Nora and seeing her through the veil. Blessed be, Z Budapest & Bobbie Grennier

    1. Dear Z and Bobbie,

      Thank you. I will see Nora today and will share your message with her. Last March, when I posted this, none of us expected her to see Beltane and definitely not Summer Solstice. But here it is, nearly Samhain, and she is still with us. Every day a blessing and a miracle. Who knows what the Goddess still has in store for her?

      Love & Blessings,

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