As the Holiday Season draws to a close around the New Year, many people are feeling the stark, barren ache of loss. I know my family has lost too many loved ones this past year - family, community elders, & younger people to both illness and suicide. It seems the number of suicides, especially in mid-age men has risen sharply as the increasing pressure of our society weighs heavily on the hearts and shoulders of many. With sickness at least, we see the signs and have some time to prepare ourselves the best we can to adjust when a loved one passes over. Often times, we don’t see the signs of despair before a suicide, or have any warning before an unforeseen accident occurs. No matter the cause, every death still wrenches my heart deeply.
We are told this is the season for joy and celebrating. I am certainly grateful to have our health, and more than our basic needs met! For us, today marks year 2 in remission from cancer for Scotty – my hubby -which feels huge, considering he almost didn’t survive at all! Still, as we spent our Holiday at home baking and cooking, it felt bittersweet as he keenly felt the loss of his dear Momma who passed on Valentine’s Day this year. She was his rock, the one who taught him the love of making food, and so much else!
We chose not to travel this Holiday season (and thank goodness with all the flight drama!). So from home, we did a lot of reminiscing, reached out to family and loved ones, gave out tins of homemade cookies, and made enough chicken soup to share with another family who’s just lost a loved one. We laughed, cried, shared loving moments, celebrated the past & started looking forward. We played music, sang, built an artsy clock, took walks, listened to the rain tapping on the roof.
I had an extremely emotional moment in the past month. I had just found out an iconic musician, a staple from my childhood music community was sick and in hospice and felt an all-too-familiar ache inside my chest. I sat and wrote him an email, reminiscing on all the dances he played, the potlucks and music jams he hosted, the fiddle lessons he gave me, and the incredible impact he’s made on me, along with many others, as a compassionate, talented, attentive role model. I also included a very rough version of a song Scotty and I wrote and were in the process of recording, letting him know I’d send along the finished version shortly. He wrote back a very sweet, short response which eased my heart a little. While I was in the studio, tracking vocals to our song about home, I felt his presence there, and imagined I was singing it to him, across the country. It really resonated with the tumble of emotions churning inside me, but felt like a peaceful homage to him. He passed peacefully very soon after, as did another community artist.
As a society we aren’t really taught to think, talk about, or to consider Death as part of the cycle of life. It is inevitable. It’s unpredictable when and how it will come. But it does and will come to each of us, at some point, and we will pass into whatever awaits us beyond our existence in our human body. I guess I’ve come to terms with the awareness that, because I have lived a rich, love-filled life within a large collective community, I will also feel loss each time one of those people passes. So it could be taken as a positive sign. It’s better to suffer the losses of wonderful loved ones numerous times, because I’ve had the privilege of basking in their love than to suffer less because I’ve had less love. I also remind myself that, whether they are suffering physically or emotionally, they have found release from that pain, and have left their mark in our world which we can continue to honor through memories and shared stories.
That is what I’m left reflecting on as we dive into another new year during which much of the world is embroiled in needless conflict created by greed and disconnected ego. Each day I choose to live my best life, smiling at strangers and friends alike, looking out for my fellow humans, spreading compassion, loving, laughing and growing. I truly believe that the more we do the work to spread kindness and joy, the better our world will be, despite all the hardship. A smile, a hug, a kind word can truly transform a person’s living experience.
In love and light,