I’m so acutely aware of Death in the field right now.
Always, yes. Our friend Death is always right here, with us.
And yet I’ve been carefully and heartfully tracking, along with so many of us, the very recent passings of several beloveds in the overlapping circles of kindreds; noticing the holy ripples these passings create, through the hearts of loved ones, and everyone their lives then touch~ rippling out, making waves, through the sacred web and field of life we blessedly share.
Whether it’s a death from heart-wrenching suicide, or after a long-battled physical disease, or due to a tragic accident, or as a sudden, unexpected surprise, there’s nothing like Death Medicine to bring us so intimately close with the mysterious, precarious edge of aliveness we live with: our precious mortal breath pressed up against the holy, vast unknown.
We wailingly grieve our lost one, fluctuating between glorious celebration of our beloved’s beauty, humbled gratitude to have been blessed with such a miraculous love, and then utter devastation in the face of our losing them, and our world losing them. Sometimes reveling in bittersweet joy and relief upon the passing, knowing that the suffering their life may have included has been released, transmuted and transcended now; they are flying free.
Or perhaps we carefully watch from the periphery those closest in to the loss; our hands resting on our tender, beating hearts, empathizing, bowing, sending love, sending prayers that their grieving hearts might just keep breaking open even wider into the love that holds it all.
Counting our blessings, cherishing those closest to us, while knowing it is truly just a matter of time before we all return to the other side.
When Death comes in close enough to touch us personally, we think of everyone we love so dearly, and remember, at least for a moment, that all form is temporary and fleeting, and know that we, along with all of life, are present here, embodied like this in our world, for only a brief moment.
We look down at our own slowly aging hands, our own bodies, breathing, full of blessed life for now. We pull our beloved children in close to us, and breathe their scent deeply in. We behold our lovers, our parents, our furry creatures, our dear friends, and even those we don’t know, and see them through fresh eyes, taking in their light, their warmth, their utterly unique beauty.
With Death Medicine close we remember to notice what it feels like as the soles of our feet touch the earth, and as the sun kindly lifts our face to kiss us, we notice the sweet smell of flowers on the wind. We revel at sunsets and starshine. We wonder at the mysterious animating force filling these bodies, infusing these senses, only for a time.
We notice when we’re dancing how much gravity loves us to lean in and taste this delicious place where breath and sweat, music and movement allow us to be taken, swallowed up by Life’s aliveness.
We notice, in Death’s presence, if we’re lucky, what, if anything, at this moment of our lives is still left for us unlived; what remains unspoken, unblessed, unthanked, unacknowledged, unforgiven, unloved, unsung?
We notice what we’ve been postponing, and we feel the sacred urge to leap.
We notice our fear of really loving and living life in the way we yearn too. And then we notice our even deeper fear: of waiting even another instant to show up fully for these lives of love we took birth for. What did we come to say, to give, to live, to serve? And what on earth are we waiting for?
We notice that we are alive, and we are surrounded, literally surrounded and graced: by the living and the dying and the dead. Led by the light of our ancestors and the dreams of our unborn great-grandchildren.
And we notice that we truly love to live, to take our humble place in the great circle of life, and we confess quietly to our own hearts how vulnerable we feel in this love and this aliveness.
We pray for right relationship with all of life. We pray for clarity, humility, maturity, discipline, discernment, dignity and integrity. We pray for wisdom, empathy, truth, kindness and compassion.
And then we bow to one another and to ourselves. We bow to this Death Medicine that never fails to shake our hearts awake to Life. We stand at the threshold of inevitable death, and we say to Life: “I give in. I surrender. Yes.”