Death is the biggest transition any of us will make in our lives.
This is certainly true for the person dying.
It can also true for the dying person's family / nearest and dearest.
Death, dying is one of life's transitions that I feel most drawn to. This is partly, for sure because my father's death in 1962 defined who I was until I finally did the work of resolving that experience in my thirties. Caring for my late husband, Ivan as he died in 2009 was one of the most powerful and rich times of my life -- they were some of my finest hours, for sure.
It came to me that I want to write a series of blogs / make some videos and death and dying and here is my first 'Love letter to death: The first anniversary is the hardest'.
I felt deeply moved in the process of wiring this blog. I hope you do too.
# 1: The first anniversary is the hardest
Letter to Andrea
“Grieving is a soul journey, Andrea" *(names have been changed) I said, the other day as I sat with you – you on one side of the world and me on the other, 12,000 miles away - while you felt / spoke and navigated yourself through the first anniversary of your partner’s death.
The previous week, you had asked me if I would be with you while you honoured your beloved partner on his ‘death day’. Of course, I had agreed – “I would be honoured” was my reply and I suggested you spend time during the week to Gather.
Gathering mementos, pictures, songs, music, flowers, bits of whatever is an important way to both remember and honour not only the mana – the power and potential of the individual but also the mana of the relationship: the space between two people where the magic can happen and healing, growth and transformation can occur.
So, there we were: you with the two mugs of coffee you had made for the two of you, you and S, sitting at your favourite window looking out over your garden. I sat behind you on Zoom.
You sat beside the small table of treasures you had created that represented him and your connection: the small vase of snowdrops to represent hope,
your favourite photo of him that you had taken,
the three candles representing him, you and the third candle to represent your love that still burned so strongly.
You spoke out loud to the man you had loved for more than 20 years, expressing your gratitude for all the strengths you had fostered in each other and the gifts you had received from knowing him. You read the poem you had written some years before … it spoke so perfectly of your love, love that is as strong now – no, stronger - than it was when you were physically together.
It was heart-stoppingly beautiful.
I was so humbled by your attunement to your beloved and your palpable love for him.
What thoughtfulness you brought to this most sensitive of days: the first anniversary ritual. …
Being witnessed at such moments is so important, both for the one being witnessed as much as for the one doing the witnessing.
I acknowledge this was such a huge moment for you, Andrea.
“Thank you for all your holding, Jacquie. It has just been so helpful to me. You so understand this sacred journey because of your own experience and that has been so important.
A place has opened up in me, for me in the last few weeks. And it feels an extraordinarily rich and sacred place. A place that I was hungry for. I didn’t realise how hungry until I started Gathering.
Gathering was such a beautiful thing to do, and still is. I will continue gathering. I can’t imagine this process ever stopping. So thank you.”
Love is stronger than death
Hearing you speak with such love, compassion, and humour to your departed partner, filled me with such warmth and compassion for you, Andrea.
Our brains can’t make sense of the fact that our love for someone can continue to grow…. even after they have died, but in fact it is so very true for you.
You said: ‘My love for this dear man is in my body. It is poetry that finds it. Poetry expresses it through images.’
Thank you Andrea: this IS my work
So, as with other women I have sat with like you, Andrea, it is / was truly such an honour to witness, to hold a space for you to do whatever you needed and wanted to do to mark this milestone.
My time with you felt so powerful, yet so soft and gentle, so nourishing, so good for everyone on every level.
In the days since, I have felt a bubble of joy rising in my belly. And if that bubble had words, they would be:
‘Thank you, Andrea, for the opportunity to be with you in this most precious of moments. Thank you.’
I sent this love letter to Andrea. What a beautiful reply I received back from her:
I am deeply touched by your love letter - it was and is beautiful witnessing and reflection of your exquisite sacred holding of that space. I am so grateful to have had you there. I never knew quite how important that would be until the moment
Your words capture the process well. I’d be very happy for you to put it on your website.
I feel the strength of that work every day, as you say, it continues.