…that didn’t involve being silent anywhere but here in the strange terrain of Blogville.
I’ve had a few months of emotional processing that wasn’t the stuff of public posting – the health, hospice and healing and long-term care… or demise – of other people.
And yesterday, I was one of the officiants in a memorial service that felt like it both gave me closure and opened the way, simultaneously. The memorial was for a not-close friend and former student. Over her months in hospice, I gradually became aware of her long-time activity in a variety of wide-ranging areas in her own life – in Wicca, in incest/abuse-recovery, in her lesbian-gay-bisexual-transgendered community, in her vocational circle, in her Daughters of the American Revolution circle. Like me, many of her friends knew her only through one of these avenues. At her memorial, her very Wiccan memorial, people were cross-pollinating between groups and meeting each other for the first time.
And given the nature of the woman we were remembering, those who appeared for her memorial were open, and curious, and willing to share of themselves in sharing their stories about her. There were tears, but some were tears of laughter. People knew her vividly, because that was how she’d lived.
When we imagine a vivid character, there’s a tendency to conjure up the Auntie Mame archetype: an extravagant, wealthy eccentric, someone “living large.” None of that here, since money – or its absence – was often an issue. But character isn’t dependent on cash. Mentions of this woman’s sense of humor wove a quirky strand through so many remembered episodes, humor that was irreverent in laughing at life and at circumstances and at herself, a sense of the absurd. And one person after another spoke of some remembered comment she had made to them, thoughtful words, kindly spoken, freely given at a time and in a way that had deep and lasting significance to that person.
After sharing and laughing and crying, we all shaped ourselves into the rough form of a boat and rowed her spirit into the West and waved farewell. It wasn’t quite what she’d requested: She originally wanted us to build a physical boat.
Sometimes in my shamanic journeying, I used to ask about compassion, to better understand compassion, to know more clearly how to help foster more compassion in myself and in the world.
My power animals and other guides eventually got tired of this. “Quit using these big words. Compassion! Compassion! You and your big words!”
Me: “Well, then, what? Help me understand this better.”
“Forget compassion. Be kind.”
As I absorbed this and let it expand, their short-and-sweet teaching spoke to whether we wanted to perceive ourselves as large-spirited, noble and high-minded beings, or whether we could simply act on the impulse of being kind. The idealized self-perception versus the simple embodied action.
I don’t recall anyone yesterday describing our departed friend as “compassionate.” But they shared story after story that spoke of her kindness.
“Death is that state in which one exists
only in the memory of others,
which is why it is not an end…”
— Tasha Yar, “Star Trek: The Next Generation”