Friday would have been an idyllic Northwest summer day except for a foreboding haze of smoke from Canada’s forest fires settling in tree branches and hugging the shoreline. Determined to enjoy my excursion to the beach in spite of it, I set out to wait for my friend to arrive by ferry.
Happily ensconced on a promenade bench I relished the briny odor of Puget Sound and the glad sounds of children romping in waves. Smoke obscured my lifelong mountain friends but my memory served up a feast of towering snow-capped craigs.
My reverie was abruptly interrupted by an approaching man who lingered at the bench and gingerly draped his hand over the back. “Excuse me,” he said. “I just want to say ‘hi’ to my little girl.” I noticed the memorial plaque and offered to move so he could sit with her a while. He countered, “Thank you, but my wife is waiting in the car and she isn’t well.” We said our good-bye. Alone now, I studied the memorial plaque. Kendra was nineteen when she died and her dad wrote, “No father should ever have to bury his child, but I put my trust in the Lord.” I wept.
Did you know?
He loved you
To the top of the mountains
To the bottom of Puget Sound whose healing waves
Carried you aloft and soothed
Your seashell cuts and scrapes.
Here he stands
Grief barely at bay
A father who never
Should have buried his child.
A father whose tender love
Is balm for this fatherless soul.
© Rita H Kowats 8-14-17
Note: you can see a photo of Regina’s bench at Olympic Beach Here.
I offer this poem as solidarity with friends and followers who experience great loss and suffering at this time. Recently a line from BBC’s “Call the Midwife” stunned me. The nurse said to a grieving wife, “We just keep on living until we are alive again.” This.
“A pearl is a beautiful thing that is produced by an injured life. It is the tear [that results] from the injury of the oyster. The treasure of our being in this world is also produced by an injured life. If we had not been wounded, if we had not been injured, then we will not produce the pearl. “
The idea of this post emerged from my read of an excellent post, “The Dragon’s Pearl” on http://whatashrinkthinks.com/. I hope you enjoy Martha Crawford’s journey through identifying and healing our psychological and spiritual wounds.
Buddhists have a profound practice of sending Metta, Loving Kindness to others. When I make this meditation, I call to mind a person/s who are in need of loving kindness. I honor my own Christian roots by bringing them into the presence of God. With conscious intention, I send them loving kindness. All aspects of the universe are connected. It matters that we hold vigil for one another in this way.
I send peace out to you on this Saturday in March. If your weather is still severe, may you bloom peace.
photo credit: royalty-free NASA space photo
“Beach Combing” a poem…Receding tide exposed an expansive, collateral-cluttered beach this morning…
At Christmas time last year my family visited the Bellevue Botanical Gardens as a ritual of celebration for our sister who had died suddenly four months earlier. Today I come across the photos of the gardens and tears of delight mix with tears of sorrow, as they always do. This was one of our last outings with Mary, and she so loved to garden!
I think of her and all of our loved ones who have passed as being immersed in the beating heart of the universe, as Martin Buber phrases it so well. They live and breathe in every flower in every garden and continue to light our way.
May we stay in tune with the beating of the great heart.
“Into the Woods” by Vinoth Chandar
At age 69 I have begun to listen to older friends as they cope with losing one friend after the other. Someone said she can go to three funerals a week some months. I’ve been trying to wrap my head around that kind of loss and how it must feel After awhile one must just throw up one’s arms and shout, “Bring it on! I’m all alone anyway!” I want to continue with tried and true spiritual practices that have sustained me in the past, and develop new ones to see me through this new stage of aging, which began today with news that my recently deceased sister’s friend has received a sobering diagnosis. The best practice for me seems to hit it straight-on, put it out there where I can see it. So here it is:
First family funerals-
Expected. Sick and aging parents.
We can do this.
We make peace with
The emptiness left by November’s unleaving.*
Life goes on, they say.
And it does.
Then sibling death-
That shouldn’t happen,
But it does.
It doesn’t stop there.
Today I hear November winds howl
Around vulnerable friends
Who stand like dominoes
Waiting their turn.
I feel like the Ancient Mariner,
“Alone, alone, all, all alone, “
Wondering what curse I have called down.
How do we bear this Last unleaving?
Our bare, black spirit -limbs
Are leaved round by brilliant
© rita h kowats
* I am indebted here to Gerard Manley Hopkins for the word, “Unleaving,” coined in his poem, “Spring and Fall.”
** “The Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner,” by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, The Fourth Part
One year after the unexpected death of my sister I still step gingerly. When we grieve we learn that all we CAN do is step out. If we step in harmony with the pain, we become sure-footed. The pain transforms from foe to friend, and we endure in spite of the loss.
My spiritual practice has been intentionality. I ask for the grace to stay conscious, to recognize each wave of grief and to honor my humanity by feeling it. It has also helped me to be aware of my sister’s continued presence in a new way. I have prayed for her spirit as she transitions into this new and unknown existance. And I have practiced letting her go.
Two gifts have emerged from this experience: reinforcement that the ice holds, and realization that we are not in control. Now I try to live into these truths, and to be in solidarity with others who grieve.
“…true poverty of spirit consists in keeping oneself so free of God and of all one’s works that if God wants to act in the soul, God himself becomes the place wherein he wants to act- and this God likes to do….Here, in this poverty, people attain the eternal being that they once were, now are, and will eternally remain.” Meister Eckhart Sermon Fifteen
This time Meister Eckhart describes the goal of the spiritual journey as a radical letting go of all ego entrapments so that if God wants to act in the soul, God becomes the place wherein God wants to act. This is the GodPlace where we existed before we were creatured.
The poem I share here emerged after the death of my parents, many years ago. Since then I have experienced enough “ego-deaths” to fuel a massive funeral pyre! Every time we choose Spirit over ego, we die a little and are born a little, becoming more authentically our true selves.
Leaves reign down
Leaving long limbs
Exposed like raw pain.
“The Lord gives and the Lord takes away.
Blessed be the name of the Lord?”
As leaves to earth
We return to the
Genes of our souls
Bare, not barren,
Becoming at last
Who we always were.
Rita Hemmer Kowats