A Year In The Life of Life & Death: A Post From The Borderlands
Last Friday - April 15, 2011 - marked the first anniversary of my mother’s death. I have been eagerly anticipating this moment when the circle/cycle comes back around on itself to simultaneously close one chapter and begin another; quite selfishly hoping (praying) that it would allow me a sense of completion with acute grief and a natural shift into a place of more overt productivity. In the way this miracle of a process that is Life/Death naturally unfolds when unobstructed by human hubris, my extraordinary sister gave birth to her second child this morning. Beautiful, vibrant dark-haired William Field Shenstone Eddy, was born in a paradoxical flurry of certainty, speed, ease and pain (and more pain!) insistent upon his arrival while his parents bundled an unflappable 3 year old off to day care, attended to last minute business and parked the family car in a legal spot.
Will’s arrival is poetry in three dimensions - the poetry of life itself. It is not simply a birth (though that alone is miracle enough to warrant the stars and planets streaking across the sky as extraterrestrial fireworks). Will’s joyous birth is one ecstatic act in a process that is the oldest of all processes. One piece that, without which, all the rest falls apart. The death of our mother one year ago (Will’s maternal grandmother), Ruth Shenstone Harris Pelmas, is another act in this same process. Will arrived in much the same way our mother departed; with an uncanny efficiency, perhaps even an urgency and, to our frail understanding, earlier than any of us anticipated.
For me, this is a dangerous thing to leave to the devices of my mind alone. But it is also too complex a terrain to expect my heart to navigate by itself. We humans have a consciousness around this ineffable dance between life and death that is perhaps too great for our own good. It requires our acceptance that while we may enjoy agency and autonomy in many arenas, we are simply part of the web, not the makers of it; we are not the center of life nor the lords of it. The western mind (and the ever-present ego) have to grasp that death, grief and pain are not a personal attack. Rather, it is a process that is very naturally happening to us and everything else around us, all the time. In my work as guide to the human soul I have come to acknowledge that we have slowly devolved into a culture that is (ironically) bereft of its grief. And this bankruptcy of grief is very possibly the most catastrophic of all human events. Yet, were I to attempt to process the grief of my mother’s death - a reconciliation between life and Death - to my heart alone, I would be lost in a dark sea of confusion and pain so deep I might never be seen by the dayworld again! In this past year I have been so blessedly reminded; to truly honor this process requires that we live in the Borderlands where heart and mind commune, where death and life are not opposites; a place of true liminality. This is a place where things that are predator and prey in the dayworld live in harmony, drinking from the same spring without fear. This Borderland is fecund - to say the least - where never-before-seen species and systems are reciprocally co-created in a wild relationship of survival and thriving. It’s likely where everything that matters happens. These liminal Borderlands live within us, in the luminous internal terrain of our psyche, as much as they exist in the measurable sensual world of trees, birds, oxygen and earth. Our unique voice and way of seeing the world, our authentic wild sexuality and creativity (the very force of new life), our mythic significance, all our births and all our deaths, each of these dwell in the Borderlands.
This morning I have become aware; the last year of moving through the loss of my mother, its own distinct dark night of the soul, has quite clearly come to a close. I still have tremendous grief over the death of Ruth, but the grief has shifted from a cessation to a birth - morphing (to my gratitude!) into a source of creativity. Rather than sending me into a mind-bending journey into the why of existence itself, it has integrated into the deeper story of my life and fed the continually unfolding sense of my purpose.
After 20 years in the professional field of psychotherapy and a lifetime in a personal conversation with the critical importance of dying so that we may live, I know there is nothing more important than not simply our understanding but our perpetual honoring of this immutable process. So, to honor this, today I offer a bow of gratitude to the very spot on the map of the Worlds where the path of little dark-haired William Field Shenstone Eddy - on his way into this world - intersected with the path of Ruth Shenstone Harris Pelmas - on her way out of this world. I believe, in this moment it is possible to hear the oldest creature of life itself breathe a sigh of rightness that this relationship is alive and well.