I am sitting, propped on a pillow, legs crossed, eyes closed; gently bringing my awareness back to my breath and body each time it wanders off to investigate a thought.
This (aka meditation; aka "putting the puppy back on the papers") is the first thing I do every morning. But, on this particular morning, when my alarm issues its gentle chime of a strumming harp, the sound is awfully quiet -- as though issuing from across a great distance.
I open my eyes and reach out to silence the phone... but it is already silent.
The timer has not finished.
There are still 4 minutes left to go.
Strange, I think, and settle back in.
2 minutes later, the phone vibrates with a call. It's Dad, bearing news: Sandy, my grandfather, has passed away suddenly in the night.
An hour later, I turn on Pandora radio. Although the station is set to "Brazilian Soul," what comes out is jazz.
My Pandora is not tailored for jazz, because it's not my favorite.
... But it was Sandy's favorite.
For a moment, I marvel.
They say that October is the month when "the veil between worlds" is thinnest; the time when it becomes easiest (relatively, I'm sure) to communicate with the dead. With evidence of death and decay fluttering in the wind; with sudden gusts and growing chills marking our passage into winter; it is easy to see why this would be the season to acknowledge the Great Transformation that awaits us all.
And as much as I love Halloween, it strikes me now as deeply unfortunate just how removed we've become from its original intention of remembering the dead. I wish profoundly that we could take a hint from Mexico -- that we, too, could have a true Día de Los Muertos, a country-wide celebration to honor Death and collectively remember the people who were once here with us; and who now, inexplicably, are not.
Instead, at all times of the year, we avoid it.
We don't want to think or talk about it. We don't want to be morbid or depressing. From the one universal and abiding truth in the universe, we hide -- and then we wonder why it feels like such a crushing blow every time we're forced out of hiding. Even my lovely sister, when I told her what I was writing about today, advised me to write about Life instead.
But it's an illusion, this separation. The reality is that there is plenty of Life within Death, just as there are a million tiny Deaths within Life.
We must allow parts of our past selves to die, in order to become who we are meant to be. In relationship, our illusions must perish to make way for the truth of each other, and for the truth of togetherness. Even the orgasm -- arguably the most ecstatic experience of being alive -- is called, in French, "la petite mort."
Today, at his gathering, I saw pictures of Sandy as a child and as a young man; getting ready to marry his first wife; raising his kids; smiling at Gram; comforting grumpy three-year-old me. My cousin went around the yard snapping photos of us, just the way Sandy used to: holding the camera high up in front of his face, blinking profusely as he figured out which button to press.
Sitting on the deck as a light rain began to fall, I asked three of my cousins what they wanted to have done with their bodies when they died.
One wanted a Viking funeral, whereby the rest of us would shoot burning arrows at his floating pyre until it exploded into flames and sank into the sea.
Another wanted to be cremated, her ashes placed somewhere in New England with a view of the ocean.
The third wanted to be eaten by/ come back as a shark, because (who knew?) they represent her greatest fear in Life.
And I, for one, intend to come back as a tree. How nice would it be if -- instead of graveyards -- we had enchanted forests?