This last week has been sunny and warm. It’s as if Winter forgot that she was supposed to be working and Summer decided to fill in for her shift.
This happens in February around here.Winter takes a break and summer steps in for a week or two. It’s a false start to Spring. But one that is often welcome after cold nights and damp days.
This year I am being taken back to a time two years ago when the weather made this shift and I was holding vigil while grandmother was dying. First the days and nights were in the hospital then a care home. I sat and I knitted and moistened her mouth and sang her songs and told her stories, and held her hand and kissed her head and swore at the hospital bed for not having enough room for me to crawl in next to her but trying anyway.
For three weeks my mom and uncle and I took turns by her bedside leaving her alone for very short periods of time and trying to comfort her the best we could. This false Spring takes me right back to those moments that were sweet and painful and beautiful and devastating in their darkness.
Today is the anniversary of her death. That night the call came just after 10pm. I drove to the care home she was at and opened her window to the cold night and bathed her body with warm water and rubbed lavender salve into her cooling skin. I cut a piece of her beautiful salt and pepper hair and whispered my love in her now deaf ears. But I knew she was listening.
There was a time when we as culture spent more time with death. Where we helped the dying to cross to the next realm and held those vigils collectively as a community. They still exist. In some cultures and some families this does in fact occur. But as a culture we have moved farther away from this experience. We fight each day against aging and dying. Avoiding our own mortality and thus avoiding everyone elses as well.
There is something beautiful and precious in these moments of goodbye. Don’t get me wrong, it is also painful and heartbreaking. Yet honoring the leaving of the world as we honor being birthed into the world completes the circle, the cycle that is our journey in this body. This is the same cycle that moves through the seasons and all beings on this planet.
The ending of something is after all, just as important as the beginning.
Losing my grandmother was devastating, being with her in the process of her death was painful but also sacred and I was honored to share that time in between worlds with her.
Today I light a candle for my Grandma, and read some of the stories she wrote about her life and most of all I remember. For what is remembered is not lost.
This experience brings me back to the questions “How am I honoring endings in my life?” and “How am I honoring those that have come before?” . Wise Women, I invite you to ask yourself the same.
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Emily Morrison MA, MFT