death comes without warning; this body will be a corpse. november is gone; and all that remains are memories – maybe a few tangibles – look, i created this. i shifted that. i made progress on this. i let go of that. yet, essentially, all that remains are impressions, fragments and feelings. time passes; and people that we love die; and the rest of us grow older – and what remains?
i am hoping to line up some childcare this evening (i did. thank you susan, holly and matt), so brett and i can visit with his grandmother one more time – i want to say goodbye to her. she is not expected to live another 24 hours. it pains me to write this and to feel these feelings. she is the matriarch of a large family. she has 5 daughters. she has 12 grandchildren….and even has 1 great,great grandchild. she is a kind woman who loves her family very much. she prayed for all of us every single day. when there was trouble in the family, she prayed. when someone was sick, she prayed for them. when tumors began to grow in her body, she prayed that they would shrink…..and they did. she believed in the power of faith to heal all things. she had no doubts that this was so. and though she and i certainly did not always see eye to eye on many issues, i admire her devotion.
and her life was a long and fruitful one – full of many joys and a few sorrows. she has lots and lots of friends – people whom she has taken care of during times of illness and grief, people she played cards with, bowled with, old men who had crushes on her. so, with her inevitable passing….we will mourn and we will celebrate a life well lived.
now, a few hours after i wrote these first few paragraphs, i have said my goodbyes. mae cummings has died. she passed away peacefully in her apartment, surrounded by her daughters and a few of her grandchildren. i sat beside her corpse. i silently thanked her for her kindness and generosity. i gazed at her serene, lifeless expression. i hoped for an easy passage for her – from this earthly plane into the great mystery beyond. to sit next to a corpse is a profoundly humbling experience – to see a body without a breath….is a powerful reminder of the gift each one of us has – the gift that is this next breath that you take. close your eyes. feel it. inhale. exhale. grateful.
i am also sorting through thoughts, feelings and memories about another life well lived. yet, this life was cut short – dead at the tender age of 27. he’s been gone from this earthly world for 13 years now. i recently honored the anniversary day of his passing, november 29th, 1998. after 13 long years, so much has changed in my life. i am hardly recognizable compared to the young woman i was in november of 1998. but after 13 years…..what remains of sean burlew?
we have memories – many of them have faded. some are still distinct. i wonder how my perspective and life experiences have colored these memories. mostly i just remember fragments with fuzzy edges – sensations and feelings that i contextualize with the story that i tell myself of how our lives were back then.
for sean burlew was me and brett’s best friend when we lived in tucson. he was tall and lanky (like me!) he was an earth mama lovin’ hippie (like we were/are!) he graced our lives in distinct and unexpected ways – he helped us plan, dig and plant our first vegetable garden. he was the first person we told that we were going to have a baby. he always smelled ripe – like soil, sweat and raw garlic. and though you may say yuck – i loved how he smelled. i remember seeing him allow a little kid to wipe their runny nose on his shirt. he lived his life through a wide, open heart.
and so it is….when you lose people you love, you are left with gratitude for how blessed you are to have known them – and there is a void. for grandma mae, it is the void that remains when the matriarch of a family is gone. for sean, it is the void of a life that ended so shortly after it began. and all that remains are memories, stories, images and thankfulness. namaste.