“These are the days that must happen to you.” ~Walt Whitman
There is a rhythm to dying – breathing becomes a dance of letting go. An effort is demanded of the body as it lets go of the life it has known – the places fed, nurtured and touched, the people we’ve loved, the beauty of color, textures, music, letters, smells, glorious sunrises and evening birdsong. And for those in the place of witness, holding space for the letting go…shared memories, regrets, joys, and remembrance – a sacred circle of love forms, often trumping familial patterns not always so loving.
Where do we go when we die? Not far, I’m thinking. I like to imagine those we’ve loved – who have shared life and being human with us – remaining close to us beyond their last breath. That the veil is thin between the worlds and an infinite sacred thread connects our spirits always and forever.
As their human presence turns to absence our hearts must adjust to this change in our lives. Grieving begins – allowing the ache of loss to have its way with us. Time stands still, dazed as we are by this inevitable loss, we realize that life goes on…the world outside our window knows nothing of this grief. How is that possible, we wonder?
A soft tenderness invades our hearts as we go about our days, at first buoyed by the details of dying that demand our attention…obituary to write, memorial service to arrange, the endless stream of cards, flowers and consoling phone calls. Relatives and friends gather, a life celebrated and remembered in an hour’s time on a Saturday afternoon. As the last car pulls away from the curb we are left alone with our grief raw and aching, our bodies bone tired. I close my eyes and imagine the thread wrapped around me and I keep breathing, not knowing what the next moment will feel like.
Life, though forever changed, beckons us forward – bit by bit we find our way back into the groove of living. We come from Mystery and we return to Mystery. It’s the living in between that offers us the joy of a life worth living – a rugged landscape of adventure and wonder that is over all too soon.
Rest in peace, Ruth and Jack. I’m a better person for having known each of you.