Dear Still Water Friends,
This Thursday evening, after our meditation, we will gather for a Night of Remembrance to honor loved ones who have passed away. It is a time to celebrate, to share, to mourn, and to look more deeply into our interbeing. In the note below Mary Beth Hatem, who originated the idea for a Still Water Night of Remembrance, writes about what she had in mind five years ago and what the evening has come to mean to her:
When I first envisioned a Still Water Remembrance event, I was motivated by wanting to mark my Dad’s passing and at the same time feeling the need to honor and deepen my connection to the Sangha. As I moved through the rituals set out by my parents’ church, I felt the absence of my own “congregation” and reference to my own core beliefs.
I needed a space to share how mindfulness was helping me move through grief and I wanted to create space for others to speak to their own griefs and losses. The evening was magical as Sangha often is. I heard myself speaking truths that I had never known were true and I felt a love and connection I could never have predicted.
On this night, we are reminded that there is no manual for grief, no obvious timeline, no way to grieve rightly or wrongly, no memories that need to be edited or exiled. There is only the way that our own hearts reveal. What would we like the community to know or understand about our loved ones or how we are experiencing our grief? What is the legacy of our losses?
Five years and many griefs since the death of my mom and dad, twenty years past the wrenching death of my younger sister, I believe more strongly than ever that death and loss are our great teachers. Interbeing, impermanence–the agonizingly personal visceral experience of these truths–this is the learning, the deepening that happens when we experience the death of loved ones. As we tune in to our hearts, the lessons continue to unfold. Memories fade, but somehow presence does not.
I have always been a great fan of the Day of the Dead, the great Latin American tradition, a day designated to summon and check in with those whom we have lost, who continue to live on in our hearts. Below is a poem I wrote celebrating my ongoing relationship with my parents, a love–complicated and ever-changing– that feels no less real and present than the love we shared years ago.
You are invited to join with us for our Night of Remembrance. We will create a memorial table in the center of our circle. If it feels right for you, please bring a photo of a loved one, or a memento, to place on the table.
Following Mary Beth’s poem below is an excerpt on grief by Stephen Levine, a poet and Buddhist hospice pioneer who transitioned from this life in January.
Day of the Dead
by Mary Beth Hatem
Are you as excited as I am
I wasn’t sure you’d come
for the shot glass of whiskey
or notice the bright reds and yellows
the bread an obvious choice
I added bologna, your special bologna
the deck of cards a last minute
touch I knew you would like
one last chance at rummy
and the talk that comes with cards
a chance to learn that Sally still
chases squirrels and that Mom’s
not missing you at all
she has you in the next room
the next bed at church
even on the golf course
bending over that last short putt
by Stephen Levine from Healing into Life and Death
Most think of grief as a momentous sadness but it is a lot subtler than that. Everyone has grief. Everyone seems to have some unbalanced tally sheet with life, some unfinished business. An incompleteness with the past and with ourselves, a fatiguing self-consciousness, the predominant theme of the unfinished symphony of mind’s yearning.
Our grief manifests as a self-judgment, as fear, as guilt, as anger and blame. It is that insistent mercilessness with ourselves and a world which we hardly let within. Our grief is our fear of loss, our fear of the unknown, our fear of death. Grief is the rope burns left behind when what we have held to most dearly is pulled out of reach, beyond our grasp.