No matter how many people I have accompanied or witnessed or just heard about who have died, I am always surprised at the great impact hearing of their death has on Life itself. The bucket, or pot, or cloud, or breath of grief we carry from past losses, from fear of future losses, from losses other than the loss of human life, is touched. The earth shifts, the birds sing differently, and dreams change. Colors dim or brighten, sounds come into focus.
Food tastes different even with the death of people I didn’t know well, but impacted my life. Like a kind Jewish lesbian writer extraordinaire*, and an attorney I worked with in my youth for whose passion and craft freed prisoners unjustly convicted of crimes.** And then there is the 102 year old woman who hosted a cheese and wine gathering days before her death. She changed lives with her love pouring all over you, so you couldn’t help but love yourself.***
We ask big questions at High Holy days, “Who will live and who will die, and how?” “Who by cancer, who by suicide, who by fire? Who by racism and who by negligence?” Other questions are arising, “Who will I lose as family and/or whose family will I join?” “How will I be surprised?” And “Am I willing to accept the change?” “What part of myself is forever changed this year?” ”What part of the earth will survive and what part of our precious earth must we mourn?” “Can I hear the wail of God?” “Do I join their weeping?”
For now, my queries and responses are coming through my art, and less through words, so I share some with you.
*Elana Dykewomon (Oakland)
**Dennis Riordan (San Francisco)
***Lizie Goldwasser (Champaign, Ill.)
May their memories be a blessing