“Let life be beautiful like summer flowers and death like autumn leaves” – Rabindranath Tagore
Christmas morning I walked my dogs in a dense fog and was enchanted by the hundreds of spiderwebs decorating the wintery landscape.
Spider webs symbolize so many things….the strength of fragility, the wisdom of nature, the patience of the spider and on that Christmas morning, as the world celebrated birth, the webs symbolized the nonduality of birth and death. I say “nonduality” because I realized that I could not honestly stand there, gasping at the beauty around me, and judge the spiders’ efforts to catch prey as “bad.” I only knew that at that moment, with my dogs on Christmas morning, nothing felt more important than admiring the glory of nature. Noticing every web seemed like a holy act.
Several years ago, my husband and I faced a series of deaths that spanned two years. The first loss was when our brilliant nephew decided to end his life. Then a few weeks later, my stepbrother died in a tragic trucking accident. My other nephew died. My husband’s mother died. His brother died. Then my baby brother died. There were others in between – close friends and family, averaging a death every 2-3 months.
Every loss and every birth changes us radically. I’ve never witnessed a birth, but the night I stood next to my brother’s hospice bed, holding his hand as he gently breathed his last breath, was as profound as any birth.
My brother died surrounded by family and friends. We stood in a circle around his bed, knowing it wouldn’t be long. One time he sat up and looked into the distance, pointing at a spot where nobody stood and asked “Who is that?” He smiled and relaxed. We talked and sang and even prayed around him. Then his breathing changed. The transition was so gentle…there were longer and longer pauses between breaths. Finally, as softly as a sigh, he was gone.
But even with that final breath, I felt him there…his warmth and presence…the way you know somebody is in the room though you can’t see them. He “stayed” for a while…maybe 15 or 20 minutes and then the air changed and I knew that he moved on.
My brother could have possibly lived with a liver donation. I offered to share my liver with him but for a variety of reasons, that wasn’t going to work. After his death I wanted to do something to remember him and make a difference. So I worked to raise awareness for organ donations.
I would run a 30 kilometer race one year to the day he died…”running to remember.” The race was the culmination of a month-long campaign to sign up donors. Because the race’s location was a distance from my home, I stayed at a ranch closer to the event. On the eve of the race…and the eve of his death…several of us sat on the back porch when my phone beeped that I had a missed call. No number appeared but the phone indicated I had a voicemail. I want to mention here that my local cell phone carrier had made sweeping changes the year prior and all my saved voicemails had been lost. The robotic voice informed me that I had one new message. I played the message and felt the blood drain from my face. My brother’s voice brightly wished me a “Happy New Year.” He was sad to have missed me but went on to advise me not to try to call him back because he was going out to party. It was an old message from a few years prior. I played it again…and then I played it for my mother who cried with disbelief. But when I tried to play for the other people on the porch, the message was gone. And yet the MESSAGE itself was so clear. He’d moved on and wanted me to move on too.
I have only shared that with a very few close friends but I feel compelled to share it on my blog. I know only two or three people will probably read this but I needed to write it.
His transition showed me how the cycle truly does continue…that spring turns to summer and summer to fall and then in the winter, we think everything is dead…but just under the surface, life is preparing to re-awaken. Yes, cliche and a little bit cheesy but such a profound truth that I still shudder a tiny bit. Death and life are the same. Bittersweet light and dark, blinding me and lighting the way simultaneously.
Side note: If you are not signed up to do so, please, consider registering to be an organ donor. https://www.organdonor.gov/sign-up
3 thoughts on “Bittersweet, blinding dark”
Hey Ang- it is Julie. I’m so glad I took the time to read this. Wow- I felt you..the things you have been and how they have shaped you through really come through, not only through this-but through your acts as a remarkable human being.
I’m glad to know you a little deeper and thank you for sharing more of yourself journey.
I find my own comfort in believing that we truly are infinite- and I do believe we have endless opportunities to reincarnate into this (or other) worlds. I even like to imagine that we often choose to preferentially reincarnate into our own genetic descendents- thereby continuing to impact the family lineage for the better- applying what we have learned and hopefully righting the course! I really feel this earthly plane is just one step in our infinite evolution and that comforts me.
Many heartfelt hugs to you my friend! And blessings in the new year❤️
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Dear Angelina, Thanks for sharing yourself through your words of deeply life-changing loss, grief and ultimate release and transformation. Life, expressed in birth, death and rebirth, are so precious and intimately intertwined. I’m touched by the depth of understanding you have learned through the years. You loved deeply and authentically which means you would feel such profound sadness in the deaths of your many loved ones. I sense that within you is the calm and reassuring hope that life brings us the seasons of loss and grief which can, in turn, bring joy when the time is right. Your words touched me immensely. Love you dear friend.
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Angelina this is so profound and I understand it completely. It is beautifully written and I thank you for sharing. This reminds me of my sister/friend’s passing in 2005. She let me know when she passed and even though it was sad, I’m glad that she shared that moment with me. I was honored.
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