A vivid memory from my last visit with my baka (grandmother) in Bosnia a few years back:
I was sitting with my baka and her sister, and they were talking about their ascensions. The selection of clothes for their burial was completed long ago, and the clothes were pressed and ready. The selection of their bodies’ resting places at the cemetery were already chosen, bought and paid for, complete with the incomplete story that comes after the “-” on their, you guessed it, chosen, bought and completely paid-for, tombstones. Even their funerals will be of no real financial burden to their families as they have already been paid for in advance.
I sat there taken-aback, listening to them speak so matter-of-factly about their future bodily farewell. The acceptance of, preparedness for, and the peace made with, their eventual deaths did not make me feel morbid or depressed. I mean, yes, there was a moment or two when I felt that they’ve put themselves on a countdown of sorts, but if anything, they made me love life and living, even more. Is it not incredible that in living one has accepted the fact that death is a part of it?
The way we ‘go’ affects those whom we leave behind more. The age at which we ‘leave’ makes a difference too. The age and state of those who remain ‘after’ adds to the light and the tragedy of our ‘departure’. And what does it all truly mean to me?
It is always a bit of a strange day when it starts with a funeral. It was set for 10am, my ideal time of awakening on a Saturday. Because it was in Fort Erie, and because I had to meet my parents close to their home, I was up by 6 and out of my house by 7:05am. Dressed in black, because ‘that’s what you’re supposed to wear to a funeral’, it made me even more tired, but who am I to complain? It wasn’t my mother, sister, wife, aunt, daughter, friend, a cancer fighter whose body expired at the age of 47. Yet, I felt tired.
The absence of radio or music during the almost two-hour drive there was fitting, I suppose. There wasn’t the intent of being morbid or sad, as one would expect a mood in such circumstances to be. My parents and I simply talked to each other at times, and at other times drove in silence. Perhaps that’s a sign of true comfort with another – the ability to sit in silence with them. I was fully awake the entire drive there.
The church service, in my perception, was hopeful and light, if that even makes sense, in such circumstances. Her eulogy, delivered by two beautiful women, her nieces, was funny and celebratory of her life. I felt it was lovely that they also read excerpts from Maya Angelou’s Phenomenal Woman poem. Tears were shed but I was fully there. Although the burial itself was private, almost 50 cars saw her off in the funeral procession. Imagine being loved that much.
Perhaps what stayed with me the most was the little reception, after the service and the burial, where those who attended, gathered. There were about five large collages of pictures put together by her family, of different times in her life. And what it reminded us all, is that she lived. I did not cry after that but I did share a few long hugs with others, her family members and relatives. Perhaps the emotional imprint of the morning hit me on the drive home. Without radio or music, I fell asleep.
What is the rational thing to do after a funeral? Probably spend time with your family. And I did…after I went to the gym.
It could have been my need to reenergize or to encourage the movement of blood through my body after a few hour drive, that triumphed my lack of motivation in light of the morning’s events to go to the gym. But I did. A quick, hard workout, and a hot shower, does wonders for cleansing the spirit and the body of emotional buildup. At least for me it does.
I had made some french macarons the day before, to share with my family Saturday afternoon. Made with love, and loved by all – from my 2 and 5-year-old nieces, to my parents – the macarons were served with tea or coffee alongside the animated classic 101 Dalmatians; a story which reminds us of how far those who love us will go in order to fight for us, to protect us, to save us when we are unable to do so for ourselves, it brought things full circle for me.
We rely on our parents to care for us when we are born, until we are old enough to care for ourselves, and eventually they get older and then, we often have to care for them. Not everyone thinks to, or has the means to be prepared for death, the way my baka and her sister have. And that is something that may only come with a certain age, perhaps. However, how we ‘go’, is not something we are able to decide and prepare for ahead of time. Perhaps not all of us will get a chance to say ‘goodbye’ to those we love in the bodies they are in, in this life. Perhaps it will be sudden and we will be unprepared. But if we find our Self in a situation where the loved one who ascends has fought a battle of any sickness, and we were able to say ‘goodbye’, then there is hope. There is hope not that their ‘departure’ will necessarily be lighter, but that our life after they’re ‘gone’, is.
We cannot go back in time and change anything, but in moving forward, a moment at a time, we gain peace with respect to our past, if we so choose to make that effort. Once a body expires, we aren’t able to physically show or express our feelings, thoughts, emotions towards that being. And that knowledge should not hold us, but the memories of the moments we had shared with the being who ‘left’, should lift us. Because they lived, and we shared space and time with them. Because we loved them and they loved us. Because they, nor you, are their/your body. Because energy cannot be created or destroyed, it simply changes forms. Because we still have life and a responsibility to live it and explore, love, share, laugh, dance, travel, write, paint, imagine, cook, listen, taste, breathe, listen to our intuition and follow our dreams. Because our human experience is unique. Because you are free.
I spoke with my baka the following day and we talked about the ‘ascension’ of the human being whose funeral I attended. She told me that she cried too. She said “there are too many young people dying today”. Perhaps she’s right – there are too many young people dying today. But what stayed with me are these words I once heard:
“I guess the main lesson would be to love even when you don’t ‘feel like it'”. ~Lenny Kravitz