Five deaths in five months – it’s been a wild time in my life. I guess this is maybe the Crone 101 class or something, but it has seemed a bit extreme to me. It’s given me a lot to reflect on, when I’ve had any time to reflect. This last death, of my beloved friend Becky, at age 46 from a very fast-moving aggressive form of cancer, has really thrown me.
I was privileged to be one of the inner circle of support people for Becky and her partner Annemarie as they dashed through this final journey together (not quite 4 months from diagnosis to death). So I’ve been running to hospitals, and cooking healthy meals, and walking their dog and being the treasurer of the support fund and admin of the FaceBook page. (So that’s my excuse for my absence from this writing to which I had committed).
On Sundays my intention was to blog about topics of a spiritual nature and this walk with Becky & Annemarie has been, in many ways, primarily that – a spiritual matter. It has given me the opportunity to reflect on the meaning of God, of Love. To take a close look at committment, dedication, and (alas) those times when people let fear rule the day over love (the friend I lost amidst all of this because being near my grief was too much for her, though she posited it that I was too much – a “drama queen” and “too intense”).
Becky’s mom’s ministers did a beautiful job at the memorial service at the wake on Friday night and again at the burial on Saturday. We had lunch after the burial in their church. But absent those brief (and beautiful) church-related events, this deeply spiritual experience didn’t involve anything involving religion per se.
But if you believe, as I do, that Love is the alias for God, well, then it was All-God, All-the-Time.
I learned so much from the text I got from Annemarie on October 15 when Annie took Becky to the hospital and they said the ‘c’ word, through the official diagnosis on October 19, then through the tsunami of fast-moving cancer which took Becky away from our earthly connection to her on February 7.
Just as Egypt did, I saw that a bad force (Mubarek; cancer) can’t hold a candle to the power of people coming together with technologically aided ways to easily connect. Our FaceBook community quickly took shape and grew and enabled us all to pitch in (I’ll write more about that in this week’s community post).
I thought I knew a thing or two about love, but the Becky & Annie Love Story left me moonstruck more than any love story I’ve watched at the show, read about or been in myself (though I have to say that my parents had a similarly amazing love story). As I said to Annie today: “Your courage, strength, grace under pressure, devotion, dogged determination, protectiveness and most of all LOVE for Becky, all of us, and (so it seems) life during what must have felt like nightmare has been beyond heroic.”
I was also awed by how they made tough decisions together – guided by Love (remember, this is God’s secret name).
Family, friends, neighbors (did I mention that Chicago had historic snow here amidst this – and then on top of the historic snow some decorative additional snow? – kind neighbor guys handled it all) – we all pulled together like lots of wee stars revolving around the sun and the moon of Becky and Annie (or Annie and Becky – take your pick).
When the journey began I knew how to provide physical support for my friends (food, money, dog-walking, etc.). I knew how to provide emotional support to the degree any of us can in these huge circumstances – listening, loving, understanding. But I wondered – “how do I provide spiritual sustenance to my friends” when they had no overt path of which I was aware and I am totally LOATHE to promulgate my own (do unto others as you wish others had done unto you). I asked my wisewoman Buddhachaun (half Buddha, half leprechaun) BFF Sue for advice. “That’s so easy!” she crowed. “Becky’s path to God is music. All you need to do is make sure there is music around and she is with God.” Sold! We’ll take the musical God for 10, thanks.
So the musicians played and sang. The cooks cooked. The lovers tried to figure out how to keep on keeping on in the face of impending loss. We walked by their sides. We didn’t know the answer either. We just knew, as our friend, the talented musician and songwriter Tricia Alexander says:
“Love must love
That’s what love must do
Love must love
My heart knows this is true
Love must love
Not up to me and you
Love will do what love must do.”
I have a friend who had a terrible car accident in college which left her with some brain damage. But her soul seemed to get much larger and her heart big and bold and strong. When I was sharing my grief about Becky in a group in which Kristin and I both participate, she shared about when her friend & roommate died of cancer right there in the home they shared. She said to me: “I didn’t really know what to do or how to deal with this but I found the answer and I’ll tell you: Just keep on walking.”
So these past four months have been a walk with God. Sometimes She was disguised as friends walking Cagney, the special needs dog or feeding him in his special feeding chair. Somes He was disguised as a hearty cauldron of soup lovingly prepared by a friend. But God also came in disguises like tears, despair, fear and sorrow.
I’ve quoted this poem before in this blog, but it’s so apt for this post that you’ll get it again, you lucky peeps. It’s from Rumi.
The Guest House
This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.
Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.