I recall a very early memory of me as an infant, holding my eyes as tight as I could against the crib mattress and later as a toddler against my pillow, and at that point my mama asking what I was doing. "It's how I see the lights, Mama. I have to see the lights". Those lights and my dear mother.
As a little girl, Mom helped me bury the menagerie of dead frogs, birds, butterflies, chipmunks - whatever dead critters I came upon and carried carefully home - and helped me to fashion markers for them out of twigs and stones. She taught me how to pray for them so that they could find their way home. I remember the queasy feeling at each dead being I found, and then, as as I held them in my little hands, how I knew them as precious treasures. I delighted in the 'finding their way home' part too. Somehow I knew that the soil we buried them in was only halfway there.
When my beautiful Nonna died, just before my seventh birthday, I was devastated that I could not be in the parlor with the adults as her death drew near. I was well-acquainted with death by then, with my little animal friends, and I loved her so. Remembering the chair where I sat for several hours in the 'big room' comforts me as I write this. It was velvet and mossy green. I know now that I was her doula from a distance and the early honor brings me to my knees in gratitude.
In 1989, the devastating suicide of a dear friend shook the ground of my world. In 1992, the suicide of my husband awoke me painfully to the profound agony and ecstasy of life. Years of recovery and seeking ensued.
Beginning in 2005 after the death of my father, a series of natural and intense weather events re-wired me in ways I cannot explain.
In late 2006, and again in early 2007, two near-death emergencies spontaneously revealed a conscious, awakened clarity which made further slumber an impossibly stubborn challenge.
In early 2013, the awakenings increased exponentially, taking on a life of their own; shaking everything loose, dissolving physical borders, boundaries, and apparent reality as I knew it. That September, self in its ultimate bitter-sweet surrender gave way silently, gracefully, peacefully as a vividly pristine and unattached non-event during my beloved mother's final weeks in her body before dying. It happens that way sometimes. It happens still.
This life is a mystery, and I am at home with that. You won't often hear me speak of God; I blaspheme in typing that word. My reverence for the Sacred Mystery is best left in silence.
When I was young and grand in my knowing, I knew everything about life, about absolute truth, about what happened before life as we know it began, and what will happen after life as we know it ends. Life was an endless struggle then. Now, peace colors my days and my best words are: 'How do we know?'
This much I do appear to know: birth gives way to death, death gives way to birth. That is written in the soil, in trees, in sky and stone, in the two and four-legged ones, the finned and winged ones, and in the creeping and crawling ones.