NORA L. JAMIESON
“Your absence goes through me like thread through a needle. Everything I do is stitched with its color.” M. S. Merwin
I have been feeling the need to write to you, but often times I’ve been so low I couldn’t bring myself to again say what seems like the same words over and over. And I hesitated because for many of you this is Holiday season. Yet I’ve heard from some wondering where I am, whether I am OK and so I’m writing. Again I don’t know what I’ll say.
In three days, last year, Allan will die. I say it this way because for me this is the way it feels, not that I am anticipating his anniversary but that I am anticipating his dying. It is cellular, bone deep, as are the tears that continue to come, the missing that stitches everything with its color. I have again gone through the experiences of loss, fear, empty and wondering what will happen to me, because it does not feel like a matter of will, except for that deeply embedded life given will to have a life that is vital. And yet my heart still, most often, does not want to live, does not want to walk on alone, without Allan’s physical presence. This is bereavement. It has no pattern really, it is full of longing and realization, again and again, that the Beloved is not returning. That he no longer needs his toothbrush or all the shirts I gave him as Solstice presents, nor the empty stack of note cards he always kept handy to write thoughts, ideas for books, questions. His writing space has not been disturbed, except by the proverbial mice with whom he seemed to struck a truce, every once in a while I go sit there, not yet having the heart to read his latest writing, his little notes are a view right into his soul. Where ever Allan parked himself for long there were little pieces of paper with notes. I thumb through the card catalogue a map of his mind and heart.
My body carries on, she walks me in the woods, she eats, she sleeps, takes baths, visits with friends, and grieves. Lately I’ve wondered if my soul has gone away with him, that spark of inspiration, that sense of the deep holy of this path that I’ve lost track of, or who has lost track of me these past few weeks.
I speak to his picture every day and ask him to be with me, walk with me through this life. A medium I consulted told me that Allan and I will continue to work together, that his work here is not done, nor is mine, that we will be collaborating in some way, perhaps through the writing.
That everything we believed before he died, he finds is true.
And now it is the Solstice, a day we’ve celebrated in the Earth Spirit Council House for going on for 15 years, I believe this is the first year we will not sit. This was Allan’s favorite ritual, to sit among community in Holy silence and laughter. I remember our last Solstice last year, sitting on the front porch bundled in winter coat and blanket, smoking the last smoke of his daily ritual of one smoke a day, Holy time for him. He and Roxie and I. The sky was clear and it was very cold. He rolled the wheelchair over to the edge of the porch, scattered the tobacco and said Great Spirit, I mean no disrespect I know this isn’t my tradition, I thank you for this life and please watch over my family. I’m sure he made a variation of that prayer every evening. Tonight I will light a small fire in the wood stove given the rain, at 5:23 to mark the shortest day and the longest night. May it be luminous.
On the day of his anniversary, at 12:15 Petra, Anne and I will light a fire and burn the prayer flags that galloped in the wild wind the moment of his death, the prayer hoop we made him and installed at the ancestor shrine the morning of his memorial and the dried flowers from the memorial, with whisky, and tobacco and prayers. And other things. Petra will leave mid day and I will spend the rest of the time alone. At first this frightened me, yet now it seems that time is perhaps between Allan and I. I’ll join a friend’s family the next day for dinner.
That day I walk over some kind of threshold, I don’t know what kind or what will come from the marking of the year, all I know is that I have relived his dying since Thanksgiving, the grief pulling from the bone marrow and the last two days have been a bit less intense. Mercy. I’ve learned though that the waves, the tsunamis come with their own deep knowing. I know death and grieving are Holy paths because if allowed to, they break open the heart and eventually deep empathy and real compassion can deepen. Yet lately, in the depth of pain I’ve just wished for it to be over, my body and heart have had enough, I feel as though I’ve crawled through this year. I’m sure many of you recognize what I’m talking about and I can’t imagine the pain of multiple losses that we read of every day. Martin Prechtel said that all wars are because of unmetabolized grief. If you can’t grieve your heart can’t open.
But when the heart breaks open we learn what is important, just as the dying, in their wrestling with death, become aware of what is important in life. There are so many working to have us realize this long before we die, to live as true human beings. Things that seemed important fall away, and I know that is happening for me. At times I am aware of a different kind of love, a softening and embracing that has deepened. I remember all the angels sent my way, from amazing practitioners who love, surprise visits exquisitely timed with my deepest grief, friends who fiercely hold me through this time. Phone calls in my darkest hours. Those who still want to come walk Roxie from time to time.
And oftentimes I am just shaking with fear that my world has been shredded, that I will grow old without Allan beside me. The loneliness, the absence colors my every day. I’m always surprised when someone tells me they’ve enjoyed my company, or have been gifted by sitting with me. I’ve not yet felt joy, or deep pleasure for long, but I have felt the sun on my face, and noticed beauty of Roxie’s face, the embrace of friends, the enormous kindness in people, just waiting to be invited in, to be spiritually employed. And the wisdom that magically emerges from the heart when there is strong need. I truly don’t know if I’d be here without this holding. No one would choose grief, no one would choose to feel this deep loss, and I believe that is, in part, because we have no communal structures in place to hold us through this time, no communal places to come together and grieve.
I long for days of deep engagement, for usefulness, to feel the beauty and wonder of the earth and gratitude. I pray to develop the deep skill of holding the pain and the wonder as necessary parts of the great round and the same time. To feel Allan’s spirit accompanying me. And I pray for the Temple to reveal the ways in which she will next be a Refuge and my role in that.
These are my prayers this Solstice, and that the wounding of the world opens us into deep grief as a path to true compassion and love.