In this season of autumn, the time of endings in the waning
of the year, we feel the weather growing older and the change - the coming of winter and the long dark sleep of the earth.
But with that acknowledgment, I still find death has crossed
my door more than it should since the warm days of summer. Colors dance and fade all too quick.
My cousin Ruth died in September at 60 after a short cancer
related illness: a woman whose presence informs my earliest memories and many after that. My dear friend Paul died last week
of a sudden heart attack – he just didn’t wake up after 66 years of an amazing life. A co-worker and friend’s
father died leaving her with figuring out her relationship to him and her family, and his estate. Another co-worker and friend’s
elderly aunt was buried yesterday – someone she had been caring for and also dealing with family issues. On the same
day I found out the grandmother of one of my closest friends has reached her mid 90s and is entering hospice - beginning the
last stage of our time with her. All these people are my family in their own ways.
Death surprises most of us.
We forget we are part of the cycle of life. We have been
cut off from it in our daily lives, avoid it with our medicine, and made it into seductive magic with our media. But it comes
to all of us and it’s real. When there is warning, there is some time to make peace as best we can. When death comes
sudden, we are shocked.
The absoluteness is the same. There is no prejudice in
the result. We fall like leaves from an old maple, never to rise again. I am scared by this as most people are.
Losing a loved one forces us to take stock of our own mortality.
Look at where we are in our journeys, the lessening years of ourselves and our elders, the new paths our children will take
without us. The reflection is not cruel, but the gaze is unflinching.
Time stops when someone close dies. The air in our own
world gets let out and we have to sit and catch our breath, looking behind from where we came. Ahead isn’t an option
yet. I was told by someone recently how she was in the grocery store and moving in slow motion – how could the world
still be moving on its pace around her? Her world had stopped at the catsup.
Time heals our wounds, but the scars seldom go away. Perhaps
they shouldn’t - being tattoos of the places we have been. We have loss, but we must gather again.
I have seen grief devastate people, including myself. But
grieving gives way to resignation. And from that resignation our tears on the desert or the sea release us and become the
seeds that grow acceptance and let us thrive again to the joy that still surely surrounds us. The gentle legacies of our dust
remain, as surely we flow to the sea.
I was going to make this personal: eulogize my loved ones and let you know how lost I am by their passing. But we all face this place. And like the
last, long note on a piano, the memories remain, with their vibrations spreading out forever…….