This past weekend, I was in Philadelphia with my family for a memorial service.
Although it was his grandmother's life we were celebrating, my normally irrepressible five-year old nephew crawled into his aunt's lap and slept soundly through the service. My older brother, the Harvard philosopher, did not deliver the dry intellectual eulogy we might have expected-- instead, he busted out some serious humor moves and had the room filled, repeatedly, with loud shouts of laughter. And I, someone who has a habit of being over invested in the wellbeing of others, stayed centered in my own heart, present with my own feelings-- in complete trust that everyone else would process this loss in their own best way.
Life, ever surprising, ever evolving--
And yet, there are those sweet, full moments that shake and shimmer like soap bubbles if we get quiet enough to be fully awake in the present moment. This is why I like funerals and cherish memorial services.
Please don't misunderstand: I do not like pain, loss, or grief.
What I like are family gatherings that have nothing to do with exchanging presents or fulfilling obligations. What I like is the opportunity to be together in an emotionally stripped down sort of way where an extraordinary opportunity for open, honest emotional exchange is created. What I like is being called to the mat to pay attention, wake up, snap out of dull daily routines that keep us from feeling alive, awake, and engaged.
When I was five my uncle Lester died and we traveled up to Boston for the funeral. At the wake I was dumbfounded by a group of nuns who were laughing. Laughing. I ran to find my mother to tell her what I had seen. Can you imagine? Didn't they know this was serious business? And besides, I had never seen nuns laugh before under any circumstances so the whole thing made quite an impression on me. I don't know what my mom said to me, but I know she didn't share my grave concern about the impropriety of it all.
I do remember, many years later, talking with my mom about how chagrined I felt that the day before my mother-in-law's funeral (a woman I absolutely adored who died a short, shocking, eight weeks after a cancer diagnosis) we were in hysterics laughing. Tears pouring down my face we were laughing so hard-- about what, I have no idea-- I just know I didn't understand how that was possible. It was so confusing for me. I talked to my mom about it and she shared that after the wake of her beloved cousin (who died under the most heart-wrenching, tragic circumstances and who left behind four very young children) she gathered with her cousins who told stories that made her laugh til she doubled over.
Death, ever a mystery, ever an inescapable truth--
And yet, love doesn't budge. If anything, love grows deeper, expands more fully, reveals more facets of its expression as we begin to grasp how precious each of us are, how precious this day is, how much beauty surrounds us all the time.
But enough about me--- what were you up to this weekend? Did you sink bare feet into the grass? Did you sit outside with your face to the sun? Did you get on your hands and knees and rake back the dead leaves so you could smell the fresh earth? Did you do a whole lotta nothing and then stretch out in the hammock for some sweet cloud contemplation?
Whatever you were doing, I hope you felt alive, awake and happy.
*"it's like a breeze blowing deep beneath my skin"
from the song The State I'm In, Sinead O'Connor
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