We get no choice.
If we love, we grieve.
~ Thomas Lynch
This share started last week after I finished my am scan of the obits. So many stories condensed into short paragraphs. If you wrote your obit today, would it be filled with things you did many years ago, or would it capture the you today? Are your “glory days” behind you, or are you engaged in the your life today? Who would be best to tell your story? I think I could put together an Obit 101 course, I think about them so much (ever since 2000). Oddly, my daily obit habit gives me a brief connection to my Mamas (maternal GM), who read them with flourish!
First thing upon picking up the paper, reading glasses went on, and the crisp pages were snapped open to the obituaries. My maternal grandmother was serious about obit time. Over breakfast and coffee, from a New England home where you could see the Taunton River from the kitchen window, she would plan her social calendar based on who was in the obituaries. When you are young, you never really get that. When your parents cross, or you hit your own Jubilee year you begin to understand.
When my Mom crossed in 2000, I became aware that the obituary was the final notice to the world that someone had left it. From that point on it was all word of mouth, and if you weren’t on the “phone tree” you might never know. I also realized that until someone tells me someone died, they have not. They are alive forever in my mind until a fact confirms the opposite.
My local paper has a banner running daily with a photo of Steve Irwin and a young Bindi, and the phrase “whether we are famous or not death touches us all”. I waiver on how I feel about this banner ad. Some days I feel it is in poor taste, because of course fame has nothing to do with your value after death, and some days it makes me miss Robin Williams.
Today’s obits have a 69 year old woman who has crossed, with her high school picture taking the lead. I wonder about these people. Her life had to have had many rich times since high school, yet here at the snapshot of her official public goodbye, that was the moment framed.
Part of my morning ritual is the prayer over the obits. “Peace to those who have crossed, and peace to those who remain”. This is my way of throwing my arms around the world, for even a brief moment, and offering comfort. I know the feeling of loss now, and remember how grateful I was for those who truly loved me through the process. This is my daily thank you.
When called upon to present the service for someone who has died, I know my role is to tell their story, and to bring comfort to the bereaved. I am not a religious person, but I am a very spiritual person, and I align with the Divine to be sure that I meet that goal. Only once did I do a service where the hate between the family members remaining was so formidable, love and forgiveness could not break through. I went home at least knowing I had told the story for the deceased in a way she would have smiled upon.
When I read the obituaries, I sometimes find paragraphs laden with facts. I might tilt my head at the enormity of their accomplishments, but the ones that dance off the page are the ones written from a place of deep love. The ones that speak of the gifts that were received from having this person in your life. The gifts that will carry on.
Is it a morbid exercise to write your own obit when you are finished with my words to you ?
No. It is a wonderful opportunity to see where you stand in this glorious process called living. Are you living your todays? Are you loving those in your today? Are you loving who you are? Are you listening to your Divine Voice? What is your story my friend, and how would you like it told? Be that, and be that fiercely.
Sharing this potent poem written by Mary Oliver to accompany you on your fierce walk.
When death comes
like the hungry bear in autumn;
when death comes and takes all the bright coins from his purse
to buy me, and snaps the purse shut;
when death comes
like the measle-pox
when death comes
like an iceberg between the shoulder blades,
I want to step through the door full of curiosity, wondering:
what is it going to be like, that cottage of darkness?
And therefore I look upon everything
as a brotherhood and a sisterhood,
and I look upon time as no more than an idea,
and I consider eternity as another possibility,
and I think of each life as a flower, as common
as a field daisy, and as singular,
and each name a comfortable music in the mouth,
tending, as all music does, toward silence,
and each body a lion of courage, and something
precious to the earth.
When it’s over, I want to say all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.
When it’s over, I don’t want to wonder
if I have made of my life something particular, and real.
I don’t want to find myself sighing and frightened,
or full of argument.
I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world.
And… Bruce got this thought party started many years ago with this….