“It is best as one grows older to strip oneself of possessions, to shed oneself downward like a tree, to be almost wholly earth before one dies.”
On May 28, 2014 our Group for people with life-threatening illnesses celebrated the lives of those who have already passed on. I was unable to attend the memorial service due to bronchitis, but I celebrated all those people and two of my family with the poem I share below.
Our Group is comprised of people from several different religious traditions and is hosted by our local Insight Meditation Center. The group was founded and is run by a Buddhist chaplain who has been very kind and is a stalwart friend to each of us.
Though I continue to follow the progress of friends in Group and attend our quarterly potlucks, I no longer participate in meetings. By some surely unearned grace, I am still here, still enjoying my family and friends, and I've grown to the point that the news of death no longer disturbs me. The major take-away for me from this experience is that the only difference between having a medically predicted expiration date and not knowing when our moment will come is that with a diagnosis, we no longer fall into denial. That's a huge gift. Huge! The result is that we become present in each moment.
In sharing this poem here today, I again lovingly celebrate: Ann, Deborah, Dick, Ernie, Hilda, Mary, Parvathy, Robert, Mary Kate, Steve, and Victor from Group and family lost in recent years are my former husband Kirby, the most decent man I've ever known and my cousin Christopher with whom I grew-up, a gentle intelligent soul and like a brother to me.
Each moment and every person is precious and beautiful and the only thing that really matters is how much we have loved and been loved and that - as survivors - we continue to do what we're able in the service of our families and those in need. In the end it would seem that's the best way to honor those whose memory we treasure.
Eternity flowed deftly through the last eight years
enfolding in her stream the many with whom we
contemplated Knowledge and Mortality
Looking back, we ponder amazed at love among friends,
..........it blossoms fragrant, as gentle
..........as a dewy rose among thorns and thistles
We thrash and crawl and climb
.........puzzling over the sea and fire that stalks us
Our hearts, cupped in one another’s hands
..........like castanets, beat in unison
Our measured moments grave lines in phantom fears,
..........they float like storm clouds above us
In words of jade, we speak elegies and encomiums
Our smiles mask our sorrows and yearning
Our laughter is love grown wild
We see each other in a thousand shapes and dreams
..........and in nameless faces
Our sighs ride the ebb tides of Eternity
.....and even the sun will die
.....but our lotus song will echo on ....
..........We have lived! We have loved!