Life is eternal, and love is immortal,
and death is only a horizon;
and a horizon is nothing save the limit of our sight.
~Rossiter Worthington Raymond
Death is such a strange and multi-faceted experience. Yesterday, I witnessed my sister Jan and her family as they said goodbye to her husband, and their father Pete. A simple man with complicated emotions that sometimes ran him. A long term illness that set the agenda for daily dynamics that literally had my sister running herself ragged. Love and loss in one package. Knowing that he is no longer suffering, is a relief to everyone who knew him. Knowing that the healing is beginning for Jan and the kids is a relief to me. Seeing them grappling with losing him and all the things that would mean for their lives, has been challenging. Although their process is not about me, I can’t help but have an emotional reaction to the situation. First and foremost, I know that they are all enwrapped in a huge quilt of support comprised of family and friends. People came out en masse to one or more of the trifecta of ceremonies to honor his passing; the viewing, the mass, since Pete was Catholic, and the graveside service. The priest spoke at one point about not knowing the day of our death, so we need live as fully and lovingly as possible, focusing on the good in life.
I was glad to see cousins with whom we had grown up, show up in support of the family. Our parents used to gather every month or so for Cousins Club meetings and now my generation gets together for weddings, funerals, Bar and Bat Mitzvahs. I gazed at their gracefully seasoned faces: Ricky, Steve and Teddy-brothers who, along with Jan and me, are part of the ‘Adult Orphans’ club since losing their father earlier this year and Roz whose grandmother and mine (as well as that of the aforementioned R, S and T:) were sisters. Her parents are among the last of my parents’ generation. My BFF Barb whose father recently passed after celebrating his 90th also came out to be with us. We gave knowing nods when she walked in to the funeral home.
We all carry the woundings and wonder of looking death in the face and knowing that there is more to it than closed eyes and still hearts. Before Michael died in 1998, I heard these distinct words from Beyond: “Everyone is on loan to you.” and then more recently, “Everyone you now know and love will one day die or leave you, or you will die or leave them.” Those comfort, rather than frighten me and I live each day as if this could be my last. Sometimes I forget (that darn spiritual amnesia) and get caught up in fretting over minutia.
Such a mish-mosh of juxtaposed emotions; tears and laughter; the silly and the somber. When we grieve well, we leave room for spaciousness that lets every emotion take the stage as they do, sometimes all at once. The totality of the human experience.
Wishing Pete the peace that he didn’t experience in life and wishing my sister and the kids, beginning anew.
http://youtu.be/1eR1ni6sZK4 Life Is Eternal- by Carly Simon