Constant Companions

I distinctly remember the first time I realized that I would die.  I was about 9 or 10 and I was lying in bed at night, when suddenly this realization poured over me.  I am going to die someday.  The room spun.  My heart pounded. Surely, this couldn’t be possible.  Yet, not only was it possible – it was absolutely going to happen!

Sometimes I wonder if I think about death more than the average person.  It’s not that I have a morbid fascination with it.  Nor do I fear it.  But the knowledge of this universal truth compels me toward a respectful recognition of this point within the Circle of Life.

I feel a need to confront death and suffering head on.  This is difficult work, and it is a part of what draws me to working in wildlife rehabilitation.  I do not want to run, hide, or be in fear of the Truth.  I want to walk hand in hand with it, to welcome it, to be at peace with it.

A couple of days ago, I received the news that my beloved raccoon friend, Nyxie, had died.  She was a special patient at the wildlife rehabilitation center I work at, and her sweet, gentle disposition touched the hearts of all who knew her.

I was so crestfallen when I got the news, even though I knew it was best in the long run.  I took a walk down to the old cemetery near my house, and I saw a flock of turkeys coming up the path.  How apropos.  Turkeys somehow always remind me of the gifts of life and death.

I walked down to the weathered tombstones, the graves of townsfolk who witnessed the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, and the turn of the century.  Normally, I only walk to the edge of the cemetery. There is something that prevents me from entering.  I think it is just the knowledge that I am standing on the bones of lives that were once filled with vitality –  people who laughed, ate, slept, suffered, loved.  And now their skeletons lie flat and crumbling below my feet.

But I did not hesitate to enter the cemetery this time.  I looked at the headstones.  I looked at the surrounding forest.  I listened to the cars in the distance.  I smelled the autumn air. I felt Death and Life beside me, around me, inside me – constant companions and friends.  I felt grief. I felt the wind rustle. I felt my heart beat.  I felt peaceful.

On that note, I’d like to share one of my favorite excerpts from Johnny Muir:

“All the merry dwellers of the trees and streams, and the myriad swarms of the air, called into life by the sunbeam of a summer morning, go home through death, wings folded perhaps in the last red rays of sunset of the day they were first tried.  Trees towering in the sky, braving storms of centuries, flowers turning faces to the light for a single day or hour, having enjoyed their share of life’s feast – all alike passed on and away under the law of death and love.  Yet all are our brothers and they enjoy life as we do, share heaven’s blessings with us, die and are buried in hallowed ground, come with us out of eternity and return into eternity.”

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Nyxie had a gentle and loving demeanor that was very calming to be around.  She was a miracle of Nature, and she has now returned Home.

 

 

 

 

 

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Visitors

I had two flocks of turkeys pass through my yard today.  I stopped to watch them, and in those moments, there was nothing else happening in the world.  The sky rumbled, grey and pouty, as it began to spit like a child having a temper tantrum.  I stood at my window, watching the golden maple leaves sway carelessly to the ground, feeling aware of the comfort of my home. Memories of my lifetime of autumns passed in an instant, as if I was casually flipping the pages of my favorite book.

I pictured myself making a big bowl of popcorn and sitting down to watch the turkeys.  But I knew that by the time I did that, my visitors would have moved on.  No, this was just a moment to be still, to treasure, to simply be there with the sky, the leaves, my cozy house, and the beautiful birds.  They are glorious.  They made me laugh as they pecked their way through my yard and garden, raising and tilting their eggshell blue heads, pecking, shuffling, ambling, scrambling.

I admit, I am having a hard time being back in “reality” after being away for so long.  But my heart is grateful for these remarkable visitors today because they reminded me of the “real” reality that is around me 24 hours a day, even when I’m too busy to acknowledge it. Furthermore, they reminded me that we are all just visitors here.  Like the falling leaves, we will all lay down for our final rest someday.  Perhaps that is why autumn is such a melancholy season – because deep down, we feel that reminder in our bones.  But I don’t feel sad.  I feel a deep, satisfying gratitude for all that is, and calm serenity for all that will be.

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The In-between

The In-between

It’s that time of year when the days can seem to drone on in an endless blur of grey and brown, chilly and damp.  Maybe a blanket of powdery white waits for an opportune moment to drape itself over the landscape one last time.  Or perhaps the sky might break into a brilliant blue, and the warmth of the sun will set to stirring signs of life and renewal.

This is the In-between, a time between times.  We have nearly completed our long journey though winter, but have not yet experienced the joyous beauty of Spring.

I have been thinking a lot about my friend, Karen, who passed away last week.  Karen had been in hospice for several weeks, and she faced her transition to the other side with incredible grace and wisdom.

It seemed clear to me that Karen wanted to live, and I think there was part of her that still wanted to believe that could happen.  And yet, at the same time, she seemed at peace knowing that her time to leave was drawing near, and she did not fear death.

Talking to Karen was always very easy.  Throughout the 17 or 18 years that I knew her, we both had many ups and downs, and I was always impressed and inspired by the amount of insight she had as we continued rolling and bumping along through life’s journey.

During my last visits and communications with her, we talked very openly about her death.  It was so natural, and as always during our friendship, I was so appreciative of her authenticity.

One of the things we spoke about was reincarnation.  Karen was a very spiritual person, and we shared similar views on this topic.  Of course, the basic premise of reincarnation is that, after we die, our souls are born again into another being.  But she wondered what happened after death but before your soul entered another body.  What was in the In-between? We speculated about a place of love and light, perhaps where souls gather and reconnect.  Then Karen said that she was going to try to get in touch once she reached the other side, to give us some insight into what it was like.  She followed this by saying, “But I’ll try not to do it in a spooky way, like when it’s dark out.”  I laughed a deep laugh, full of love and appreciation.

That was so Karen.  She was always trying to help others and make them comfortable.  Even if it was from the other side.

In the wake of Karen’s passing, I find myself facing my own In-between.  Along with the In-between of the seasons, I am moving forward to the In-between of jobs.  And, of course, I continue to struggle though the In-between of my own illness and health.

Uncertainty is not comfortable.  But when I think about Karen moving forward in her journey wth serenity and courage, it inspires me and makes things feel a little more okay.  And it helps to know that soon, our time between times will become Spring once more, and life again will be tender and new.

I will miss Karen deeply, but I am so grateful for the remarkable light she shone on the world.  Her special kindness, wisdom, and caring was a gift she gave to all who knew her.  I wish her much love and happiness as she continues on in her journey, though the beautiful In-between of love and light, and beyond.

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Dear friends at my 24th birthday party in 2001. Karen is seated to the left looking peaceful and lovely as ever.

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The amazing women in my life.  We are apparently so in sync that we even color coordinate by accident!  (Karen is to the left)

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My 40th birthday party this past year.  I was so touched by my friends who came from near and far to be with me.  Karen is seated 2nd to the left next to our dear friend, Michele.