“Our loved ones are in us and we are in them. When a loved one dies, a part of us also dies.” p.2
“We are in the habit of identifying ourselves with our bodies. The idea that we are this body is deeply entrenched in us. But your loved one is not just their body; they are much more than that …. The idea that “This body is me and I am this body” is a belief we must let go of. If we do not, we will suffer a great deal. We are life, and life is far vaster than this body, this concept, this mind …. We are not limited to our physical body, even when we are alive. We inter-are with our ancestors, our descendants, and the whole of the cosmos. We do not have a separate self; we are interconnected with all of life, and we, and everything, are always in transformation.” p.100-101
I miss Lexie.
I’m grateful for the reminders Thich Nhat Hanh offers us.
After fourteen years together, I delivered our beautiful cat, Lexie, to veterinary specialists for a throat scope early this morning. In a few short weeks she had gone from a social, vocal and loving feline companion to a hoarse, weak, barely eating cat choosing to hide from the family.
An x-ray late last week and a CT-scan earlier this week, revealed a mass in her throat. Veterinary specialists advised a throat scope but forewarned us Lexie might not survive the procedure. They told us a throat scope could tell us more about the mass and any possible treatment options.
We were mentally prepared for the worst but still hoped for any good news. Sadly, we were not fully prepared emotionally to hear the final diagnosis and recommendation. The throat scope revealed Lexie had cancer and it had progressed beyond any recommended treatment. They could revive her for a final goodbye, but euthanasia appeared to be the most compassionate next step.
My wife and I returned to say our goodbyes. We petted and hugged her. We apologized for not knowing how to help her earlier than we had. We thanked her for our fourteen years together. We asked her to wait for us at Rainbow Bridge. We told her we would miss her terribly and would place her cremains on our memorial bookcase with other loved ones from our “furever” family.
Memorial site for a traffic accident on a country road
Remembering a loved one doesn’t necessarily need to end at the memorial service or the death site. Both of these actions are appropriate responses yet more may be desired to keep the loved one’s memory closer to home, closer to you on a daily basis.
Have a memorial release with balloons or butterflies
Listen to their favorite songs or watch their favorite movies
Look through old photos with friends and family
Plant a tree, shrub, or flowers and visit it
Create a memorial website or Facebook page
Donate to their favorite charity
Eat or cook their favorite food
Write them a letter, poem or song.
The second writing is a section from Thich Nhat Hanh’s book How To Live When A Loved One Dies (c) 2020, Parallax Press called Making An Altar For Your Loved One:
“When we have lost someone we love, we often feel the need to express our deep love and gratitude to them…and we want to keep their memory alive…Making a shrine or altar is a concrete way of expressing our love and care, and of helping us feel connected to them. We can set up a small table and place a photograph of our loved one, a candle, some flowers, and other meaningful things on it.” p.133 http://www.parallax.org/product/how-to-live-when-a-loved-one-dies/
Check out both sources for more information.
In the meantime, here is today’s brief poem: Remembering A Deceased Loved One
“Attachment theory is a very popular concept among psychologists and has been for a few decades now. It states that humans – in fact, all mammals – have an innate drive to seek out close emotional relationships with other people, who can become our ‘attachment figures’. Humans seem to have developed a particularly flexible attachment system. By this, I mean that we can become emotionally attached to a wide number of other people, from relatives to friends to romantic partners. Even non-humans can be our attachment figures – think about the bond you might have with a beloved pet, for example. Even inanimate objects can be attachment figures – the notion of a child and their teddy is a common attachment bond in many Western countries.” Maddie Bleasdale, aka The Awkward Archaeologist (see link above).
A recent Animal Chaplaincy class discussed how a loved pet (aka companion animal) can be a traumatic event for someone, especially when that loved one was a “primary attachment figure.” The guest speaker, Janel Griffieth, a Senior Director for CARE (Companions and Animals for Reform and Equity (https://careawo.org/about-us/) gave a powerful presentation about her personal experiences and why knowing more about trauma, resiliency, hope and the Attachment Theory can help animal chaplains be more empathetic when humans are emotionally devastated by the loss of their trusted non-human companion.
“The human-animal bond is a mutually beneficial and dynamic relationship between people and animals that is influenced by behaviors essential to the health and wellbeing of both.” https://vetexplainspets.com/human-animal-bond/
“It is only because of our misunderstanding that we think the person we love no longer exists after they ‘pass away.’ This is because we are attached to one of the forms, one of the many manifestations of that person. When that form is gone, we suffer and feel sad. The person we love is still there. He is around us, within us and smiling at us. In our delusion we cannot recognize him, and we say: ‘He no longer is.’ We ask over and over, ‘Where are you? Why did you leave me all alone?’ Our pain is great because of our misunderstanding. But the cloud is not lost. Our beloved is not lost. The cloud is manifesting in a different form. Our beloved is manifesting in a different form. If we can understand this, then we will suffer much less.” Thich Nhat Hanh, No Death, No Fear
Dead Guitarist at The Blue Habanero in Richmond, VA – photo taken by author
Today’s haiku: Day of the Dead
Let us remember
loved ones departed – and our
“Day of the Dead, or Día de los Muertos, is a traditional Mexican holiday celebrated November 2. On this day, it is believed that the souls of the dead return to visit their living family members. Many people celebrate this day by visiting the graves of deceased loved ones and setting up altars with their favorite foods, drink, and photos….The main tradition for Day of the Dead sees families gather to honor and remember their loved ones who are no longer with us. Celebrated as a sacred and joyous occasion, there is plenty of food, lots of flowers, visits with family members and nostalgic stories about those who have died.” https://nationaltoday.com/day-of-the-dead/
Today, I honor my departed ancestors, friends and teachers who have “crossed over” and “continued” to the next phase of their life journey. I’m especially remembering my grandparents, father and younger brother today. I look forward to our reunions.
I respect that your experience may be different from mine. Many cultures honor their ancestors with holidays like the Day of the Dead. For example, see the chart below:
DAY OF THE DEAD AROUND THE WORLD
This traditional Buddhist and Taoist festival is part of Ghost Month, during which ghosts and spirits, including those of deceased relatives, come out of the lower realm.
The 15th day of the 7th month of the Lunar calendar, which is normally at some point during August.
Pchum Ben (Ancestors Day)
A religious occasion when the gates of hell are said to open up and the souls walk among the living. People dress in all white and make food offerings.
15th day of the tenth month in the Khmer calendar, which usually falls in September.
North and South Korea
Chuseok is a harvest festival and comparisons are often drawn to Thanksgiving. It’s tradition for Koreans to visit the graves of their ancestors to pay their respects.
Meaning “Autumn Eve” the holiday is celebrated for three days straight, normally in either September or October
Known as the “festival of the cows” Gaijarta is a celebration of death. It’s purpose is to help people accept death as a reality and to help ease the passing of those who have died. Each year cows, or children dressed as cows, walk in a procession throughout towns.
The first day of the dark four night according to the lunar Nepa. This is usually in August or September
Visit cemeteries with a sense of history – Daily Herald
“Visit a Cemetery Day is a holiday that takes place every last Sunday in October. This year it falls on October 30. It is a day that allows us to honor the life of those who are gone. It is a chance to admit that, though they’re no longer physically with us, we still have them in our memories. It is a day when people go to the gravesite of friends and families who have left this world.
WHY VISIT A CEMETERY DAY IS IMPORTANT
To honor the dead – On this special holiday, we get to honor those who have gone before us. It is good to cherish the memories they left behind.
Understand life better – When we visit the cemetery, we get a better insight into life and appreciate that we must cherish it.
Helps to remember the dead – On Visit a Cemetery Day, we get to recall the times we spent with departed loved ones. We remember all the things they’ve done for us and the memories we shared.” https://nationaltoday.com/visit-a-cemetery-day/
I woke up yesterday morning to a strong pain in my lower right back. Long story short, it was diagnosed as “right side flank pain – right 5mm obstructing stone in the ureter causing moderate hydroureter and hydronephrosis” AKA, kidney stone. I know, I know, this is TMI: too much information. Anyway, I’m feeling much better this morning and found the two items below inspiring a brief poem of my own that follows.
There are only two feelings. Love and fear. There are only two languages. Love and fear. There are only two activities. Love and fear. There are only two motives, two procedures, two frameworks, two results. Love and fear. Love and fear.
“Primatologist Signe Preuschoft traces the smile back over 30 million years of evolution to a “fear grin” stemming from monkeys and apes, who often used barely clenched teeth to portray to predators that they were harmless or to signal submission to more dominant group members. The smile may have evolved differently among species, especially among humans.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Smile
Considered one of the great English language modern poets of the 20th Century, Thomas developed and maintained his popularity through his radio recordings.
His poetic style was suggested to be influenced by Gerard Manley Hopkins, Thomas Hardy, James Joyce, D. H. Lawrence among others. Dylan Thomas responded that his greatest influence was Mother Goose:
“I should say I wanted to write poetry in the beginning because I had fallen in love with words. The first poems I knew were nursery rhymes and before I could read them for myself I had come to love the words of them. The words alone. What the words stood for was of a very secondary importance … I fell in love, that is the only expression I can think of, at once, and am still at the mercy of words, though sometimes now, knowing a little of their behaviour very well, I think I can influence them slightly and have even learned to beat them now and then, which they appear to enjoy. I tumbled for words at once. And, when I began to read the nursery rhymes for myself, and, later, to read other verses and ballads, I knew that I had discovered the most important things, to me, that could be ever.” Myers, Jack; Wukasch, Don (2003). Dictionary of Poetic Terms. University of North Texas Press, U.S. ISBN978-1-57441-166-9.
“Close friend Steve Seabolt, who was with Randy during his final moments noted that his ‘trademark wit and intellect were intact.’ At the end, as Dr. Pausch’s body was clearly failing, Mr. Seabolt said he told his friend, ‘It’s important for you to feel like you can let go. It’s okay.’