Editors' Note: This article is part of the Public Square 2014 Summer Series: Conversations on Religious Trends. Read other perspectives from the Spirituality community here.

Ascension, sometimes called the Shift, seems to be a buzz word that isn't just circulating around yoga classes, meditation circles, or trendy coffee houses. It has expanded from the spiritual gurus into mainstream society. Both terms are often misunderstood and considered new-agey and woo-woo when, in reality, ascension is merely a fancy word for change. The only thing that stays the same in life is change: a reoccurring theme from the beginning of time.

Many who subscribe to the Ascension belief would say that we have entered the time that marks the end of the world—not the end of the human race, but the end as we know it. We are being tested. With the light, there is dark, but the light must shine brighter or else we will all become consumed within the abyss. Our world continues to exfoliate and detox—deaths, wars, species extinctions, manic weather patterns, earthquakes, other natural disasters, and over-all madness. The awakening has always been there but not the awareness. This has been motivated by a larger population, a sense of freedom, and the electronics age.

Aunt Gail's Ascension

The call shouldn't have been surprising, but it was. Aunt Gail was dying. It seemed only a few months before the call that she told me the news.

"I've got cancer, Kristy," she whispered into the phone. "I start treatments soon."

"You've got this, Gail," I tried to reassure her, trying to keep my voice as upbeat and positive as possible. "Just do everything the doctor tells you to do, okay? If mom could beat breast cancer over twenty years ago, you can beat this!"

"I don't think I can," she confided softly.

My husband's aunt by marriage, Gail was an intricate part of our family and most importantly my mother-in-law's life. Even if we didn't see her often, her passing at the age of sixty-two felt too young. As I sat down next to my husband Chuck at the funeral, her words echoed in my head: "I don't think I can."

Dr. Gail Van Etten was a well-educated and beautiful African American lady who worked for a local community college where she counseled and reassured the kids on their future. She grew up in the projects of Detroit, Michigan, but worked hard to dig her way out of there, never more to return, and became a role model for many. Her degree specialty was philosophy, and she was a skeptic of all religions and faiths. Although she was raised in a house with strong faith and prayer at the dinner table, she saw the struggles in the bowels of what might be considered the ghetto and had once asked me why a God would allow such things. When I was introduced to the family as a Lutheran Psychic Medium, she was curious by nature and attended one of my gallery events where her husband (Chuck's Uncle Ronnie) came through from the other side with specific details about a shopping trip she had that same day. She laughed and attempted to brush it off as coincidence, but it was apparent that she was confused, if not even spooked a bit. She never attended another event after that.

The funeral home was decorated with flowers and filled in with hundreds of people, all shapes, sizes, occupations, and colors. Instead of mourning, it became a celebration with sharing of stories, singing, hugging, and praying. Strangers became one big family that hour. I looked around to see if I could see Aunt Gail. Not the Aunt Gail who lay in her requested white suit in the casket, but the spirit of her. As I scanned the crowd, I saw her leaning up against the wall nearest the door, looking on at her funeral and the many speakers, including several ministers of different denominations of churches. Her one friend stood up and acknowledged Aunt Gail's lack of religious faith through the years until she was looking at the face of death, when she decided to pick up a daily devotion book and read it while she did her treatments. "I believe she found God," the friend sang, and the room erupted into cheers and many Amens, reminiscent of a southern revival, only we were in small town Michigan.