Thursday, March 22, 2012

52 is not enough

In greek mythology spring comes from a deal made in the underworld. In exchange for Hades’s possession of the beloved Persephone for a winter’s season, she is returned to us for six months. Her return is what brings us Spring and Summer.  The poignancy of this deal combines the enjoyment of the time spent in nature’s bounty with the sting of loss that we know must come again.

Today my task is to conduct a ceremony for the daughter of very fine folks from Bobcaygeon; the mother of three young adults; the partner of a man my age.

Now these good people are spiritual but not religious. It is a family of scientists, biologists, people of the medical world. In their home, surrounded by books and art and music, we spoke of this daughter, mother, wife lost to them very suddenly. She suffered a hemorrhage in her brain and died within hours without ever gaining consciousness.  

We had to get the subject of religion out of the way first. They wanted a ceremony. They wanted someone to take them through this time of public mourning; of sharing their loss with family and friends. But they wanted me to know that the church was not a place that they belonged. They struggled to let me know that while they were open to the idea of God, of soul, of spirit – that the dogma and the moral constructs of Jesus worshippers were a foreign tongue they had little interest in speaking.

The children had attended Catholic schools – the parents choice for the structure and moral authority it offered. The daughter and son, now in university, let me know that while they weren’t about to wear any religious labels – they were open to believing…

The husband/father, had attended the school ceremonies within the church culture as obligatory passage rituals without being touched by their sentiment. The religion offered him nothing he could use. He told us about growing up in communist Czechoslovakia and getting married in a church as an almost radical act of defiance to the social norms of his generation. He’d done it for his first wife’s family.

He also told us about the end of that marriage in their adopted land of Ontario. He told us that in the pain of that situation – he’d prayed.

Who doesn’t? Whether we call it prayer or not, don’t we all conduct conversations with the Other? Don’t we all, out of some unconscious instinct, call our questions into the wind, our requests out to the stars, our curses down to the pit opening and widening at our feet?

And if we don’t let our minds go there, won’t our dreams take us where our thoughts refuse to wander?

All I know of the lost woman’s spiritual life is that she’d lately begun spending time each morning alone in quiet. The daughter called it prayer. The son called it meditation. The husband called it a searching.

And I know that she gardened, that she skied, that she laughed and played and made love and worked hard and drove her kids to hockey and dance and listened to her favourite tunes on the car stereo. Everyday spiritual acts of soul.

So, what will I say today? How will I honour her life as unique and sacred? Who will I pray to on their behalf?

At the pub last night, with spoken word poetry in my ears, I penned these words.

-52 is not enough-

52 cards completes a deck
52 weeks completes a year
52 years is not enough to complete a lifetime

And yet, that’s all she was dealt
that’s all the time you had to share
her last week ending without a chance to say…

On the pages of her days
we remember what she wrote with care
in a language of time spent touching hearts

Beneath the sound of talk
there’s a dialect without words
heard within heart’s circle of a moment’s passing

How can we count what’s without measure?
How can we say what’s best unspoken?
How can we keep what’s lost forever?

One life, one love, one heart
to which we all belong
never-ending undying ever-beginning

our song goes on and on and ever on
and her soul’s chord is struck again
each time we open heart’s ears and re-member…

for Jlee
March 21st, 2012

thanks for the photos again this week to Richard Choe http//
keep em coming Richard!

1 comment:

Richard C. Choe said...

Thank you for the post, Al. I find it a privilege to walk with people in their grief. Funeral is one of those times and places where we, as clergy, are given an opportunity to serve our neighbours.

Peace, R