Like Words Together Reflections from the deep end of Practice.


After the Memorials

I've been to the two memorials for AH in the past couple of weeks. First was a public one that took place the last morning I was in San Francisco. The second one took place for our Sangha the week following. Immediately following each departure something kind of special happened.

First was trying to leave the public memorial at a chapel inside of cemetery grounds set above the Willamette River along a road that wound through cemetery grounds. In leaving CK waved me ahead, calling out, "since you know your way better."

I would then proceed to get the two of us lost. Plus another car behind CK who had the mistaken notion that the person in the lead car (me) would know what they were doing (wrong). So around and around we all went.

At first I was so demoralized by this. Not knowing where I was going. People thinking I should and now I've let them down. All that "Blah, Blah, Blah" of the Inner Critic layered atop my feeling beyond exhausted by the day. I'd slept fitfully, awoke at 4:30 to drive hard, fast, but safely, in order to make it just on time to the service. The incense offering, while beautiful, had me coughing painfully and my whole body ached.

Tears came to my eyes at this indignity of being lost in the cemetery. Soon however, the absurdity of the moment sunk in. Her we all were in our cars, in mourning, and unable to figure how to get away from the memorial chapel. It was as though we were in a comedy.

For several moments, as I tired to sort out the maze of the winding road, I would burst out in loud, helpless laughter.

"How inappropriate" I could hear my Inner Critic remark, perhaps in my Grandmother's voice.

Since I was the only one in the car, and a part of felt like AH would appreciate the absurdity of the moment, the voice didn't take hold. I laughed some more, wiped tears from my eyes and eventually sorted out how to get back onto the bit of winding road that lead out.

The next memorial was a week later for our Sangha. Several members of the women's practice group had decided to read some of AH's poems. I had picked one to read and doing so just depleted me of all the energy I had for the day. I left immediately afterward, feeling crushed, leaving behind the carrier I use for the cupcakes I'd brought, and going home to bed.

On the way home, my face pale and my eyes red from crying, I had to stop and get gas. The light had come on in the car and I didn't want to chance running out. I pulled in and asked the attendant to fill the tank. His face was worn down, he'd seen a lot of living, but his eyes were bright and compassionate.

He came back to ask me if I was alright. I said I'd just been at a friend's memorial service. He asked if she was young or old, was the death expected. I told him she was young and her death was unexpected. He shook his head in sympathy and compassion, said how sorry he was, and he then said he was going wash my windows.

When he came back again he told me his name was Ben and told me a really sad and terrible story of losing his wife of 2 years to a car accident. He found out as the driver of the tow-truck called to the scene to retrieve the vehicles. Truly a tragedy.

Ben made sure I knew that he hadn't told me to cause me more pain at hearing his awful story. He said that he told me so I knew that when he said he was sorry for my loss that he truly understands what it is to loose someone precious. I thanked him for his willingness to share with me, to make sure I felt his compassion for my suffering. He patted my hands with his beat up ones before I left and told me to drive safely.

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  1. Just found your blog. Looking forward to more. Peace to AH.

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