Day 40: Balance

It’s day forty since my brother’s passing and I wake feeling refreshed.  I notice I’m breathing fully. Perhaps it’s the nap I gave myself yesterday which was followed by bed at 8:30.  I woke dreaming of my mother who passed away in February 2005 but she was alive and well in the dream. We were looking for a place where all of us could live.

Forty days is a spiritual number that comes up in many religions and practices.  Our skin cells take, on average, forty days to renew.

I am with the words of Jelaluddin Rumi:

What nine months does for the embryo

Forty early mornings

Will do for your growing awareness

This morning when I woke I felt the reins of the horse loosening as though I didn’t need to hold on. I felt a new awareness of the consciousness we all share.  I felt my cells expanding out, but that is for me, sister, not wife.

At 6:40 my brother’s wife calls.  They were married thirty-three years and together longer than that.  They were/are soul-mates. I can’t imagine what this is for her. Grief. How do we make it through? How do we offer support?

When my father died in an accident in 1969, I was 19 and my brother 15.  My mother was 42. She said if it weren’t for us, she wouldn’t get out of bed.  We all slept in the same room for a time, but the daughter of my brother and his wife is 24 with a life of her own, and, she, too, is grieving.  

I sit with that now as the fog brings wisps of white to the blue sky.  The coming of fog shimmers the trees, offers change – fog, saliva for air.  

The moon and fog

Who calls to whom?

Recently I learned of the work of Professor Kathryn Geurts with the Anlo-Ewe speaking people in southeastern Ghana.  She discovered that balance is a sense there, the primary sense, and is physical and psychological, literal and metaphorical.

They have a word seselelame which means “feel-feel-at-flesh-inside”.  They are connected to the wisdom of intuition. In that, I touch into what another might need.  I offer support, relationship, leaves to tree.

Maple before the touch of morning sun

Day 39: There’s No Place like Home

I feel like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz.  It rained the whole time we were gone and I look out on vibrancy, growth, and green.

I return to a sympathy card that brings tears.  I feel like today is the first day since my brother passed that I have a whole day to sit and cry.  Yes, there is laundry and grocery procurement, and checking plants, but kitties are cuddled, and as I respond to emails, I look up and my feathered friend sits on a branch outside the window.  She waits for me to get my camera and take a photo through the slats of the blind and another through the glass door. She sits with me, a comfort in the weight of grief.

I feel molted, tender before new growth and skin form.  I feel fragile and tears continue to pour forth, harbingers seasoning what comes.  

Outside my window – comfort through the slats
Honoring a Cosanti bell of celebration

Day 38: Up and Down

I’m honoring the passing of my brother and what comes as I move up and down in space as NYC definitely requires stair, elevator, and escalator transport, and I’m up and down in mood. Showered and after coffee and a blueberry muffin, I invite myself more thoroughly into a new day.

I didn’t take a picture of the “bubbles” I saw the first night we were here, and when I went back yesterday, they were gone. Maybe I imagined them, or maybe they were an exhibit meant to show impermanence. My plan has been to post on grief for 49 days in honor of my brother’s passing/passage. 49 days is the time Buddhists believe it takes for one who has passed to more thoroughly move on. Today I wonder if 49 days will be enough for me to move on, and today is today.

Here is a poem by David Whyte.

The Well of Grief
David Whyte

Those who will not slip beneath
the still surface on the well of grief,

turning down through its black water
to the place we cannot breathe,

will never know the source from which we drink,
the secret water, cold and clear,

nor find in the darkness glimmering,

the small round coins,
thrown by those who wished for something else.

Artwork outside Rockefeller Center
Listen; receive!

After I interpreted the above sculpture as hand to heart and listening, I read about the artwork currently displayed at Rockefeller Center. It is a
“raised fist that morphs into a gramophone”. Perhaps it says something about what I need to believe. Read about what’s represented in the sculptures here.

Day 35: Love Sparkles the Air

The sun is shining in Shelton, CT for the first time it seems since my brother passed thirty-five days ago.  The rehearsal dinner we attended last night was beautiful and now today a wedding but first, we’ll meet with Jan, my brother’s wife.  The intention had been that we’d meet with her and my brother but now it is just her and so we balance life and death, love and its accompaniment, as the more we love, the more deeply we are carved, formed, birthed, and fertilized by pain, and yes, we mix our metaphors because we are abundant with our evolving maze of curves.

Yesterday I read Mingyur Rinpoche’s discovery when he recovered from a near-death experience.  When you love, the world loves you back. His book comforts me as I feel my brother here in a way I don’t need to comprehend.  I only need to know that he is the butterfly and I the caterpillar, and one day I, too, will fill out my wings.

Il Palio – site of the rehearsal dinner

Day 32: Evening

It’s raining.  My cat Bella and I are together on the couch watching the rain, listening.  It’s enough, breath like a bellows moving in and out.

Though flights have been cancelled, our plan is to fly from SFO to JFK tomorrow morning.  This time we fly for a wedding, not a memorial, as we did two weeks ago, and yet, the lift for me is fragile. I feel the weight of grief even as I balance on the coming together of two people in marriage, commitment, love, and trust.

As I receive compliments on “Airing Out the Fairy Tale”, I remember back.

About six months after I returned home from Nepal, I received an airmail envelope, weight of a feather, from Kathmandu, with a poem from Sonam, the sixteen year old son of the Sherpa who led us on the trek in Nepal.

“Mountain can’t fly,

We can die.

I waiting to you.

You must try.”

At the time, I knew it was impossible to return, and I sit with that now, as I’m heavy with grief, yet knowing renewal is at hand with each breath.

When my mother passed, I wrote this poem.  


Two leaves on our chest

Sweeping grief with every breath.

Lungs and breath

Later I wrote:  

There’s nothing binary in grief,

No on-off switch, no separation of yin and yang,

Good and evil, male and female, punishment and revenge,

Joy and sorrow.

Grief holds all.  

I sit with this now as I consider what it is to get on a plane, the magic and majesty of flying from one place to another, one group of friends to another, while still being true to the organism harvesting beats, trusting rhythm and reverberations inside and out.  Petals unfold for sun and for rain, knowing the skin-filled caress and blossom of dew.

A rose in my garden

Day 32: Weaving Connection

I wake at four these days, my heart a May Pole of connection with my ancestors through my brother’s passing on April 14th.  He is here weaving beauty and love in and through my heart.

When embalming, the Egyptians left the heart inside the body because they believed the heart was the seat of wisdom and in the afterlife it would be weighed to see whether the person had led a good life.

I believe now the heart is stretched when someone we love passes, strengthened.  It is as though breath moves more clearly and openly through nose and pores, and in that, we notice more.  I’m seeing birds in trees and roses hidden within green growth. I feel the world peering at me, peeking, as I look, hear, smell, touch, taste.  I’m receiving the world around me, expanded in my brother’s passage, his leadership in growth.

In that, I’m with the well-known quote by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry in The Little Prince: “And now here is my secret, a very simple secret: It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.”

Eyes opened, heart touched, I wiggle in receptivity, grateful to be led like a child by those who go before.

Opening dwells, haloes heart

Day 31: Morning Song

The day begins to light and birds are singing.  It’s as though their notes draw the light. Which comes first, light or song, and what vibrates in me now?

It’s been thirty-one days since my brother passed.  The curtain he opened, the veil, feels fragile today, as I continue to navigate two worlds, my own and what he now explores.

There is expansion in my chest, and my arms stretch a little wider as though encompassing more than I know.

In the book “In Love with the World: A Monk’s Journey through the Bardos of Living and Dying”, Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche shares how, with death, the elements let go, earth, water, fire, air, space, and I recall my visit to the Everest Memorial in 1993.  I felt elemental as though I understood. I write about it in “Airing Out the Fairy Tale”.

Reverence waved within us like the prayer flags overhead as we entered the Everest Memorial. It’s a circle, a sacred site where those who have died on Everest are honored and remembered with cairns, simple piles of stones. I hadn’t expected the Taj Mahal, of course, yet I was shocked at the efforts to honor human life in an area so bare, with nothing to spare.

Celeste, Sante, and I separated, each drawn to explore different sections within the circle, each needing to find our own way to honor and grieve. The wind blew icy cold. Something new entered my bones. Not fear, or even grief. I stepped outor was brought outof humanness, into something more elemental.

The book “The Songlines” by Bruce Chatwin came to me as I stood there. Set in the Australian outback, it’s an exploration of the invisible pathways by which the Aboriginal ancestors sang their world into existence. I felt that in Nepal, as though those who’d died were winging their way through stars, as though the expansiveness of death was impersonal. It was as if the vastness between and within atoms was tangible. I could believe we sing the universe into being as we tune into the vibrations between the cells. We are tuning forks.  

I’m with that now, awareness of the elements and how they come together, in this moment, in me. I’m awake, my song within, my heart a cauldron brewing what comes as I open to this day, this birth, each day, a birth and celebration of what’s new and wakes. I walk out into my yard, greeted by leaves, trunks, stones, and the twittering notes of birds.