Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The Colors of Grief

There has been much sadness for me of late. During the month of July three people I know have passed away. One was not unexpected I guess, though always a miracle is hoped for, and the other two were unexpected. Neither way lessens the sadness.

I have been working with a concept for a while now about grief, which the butterfly taught me; mourn the caterpillar but celebrate the butterfly. So in my heart there is, in part, celebration for the transformation and return to pure Spirit that these souls have undergone. Yet, there is also the part that is grieving. That is the part of my heart that I listened to tonight.

The Colors of Grief
Lynda Allen

What is the color of grief?
What hue the hole in a heart?
What shade emptiness?

Tradition would have it be black,
somber and dark.
Music might have it be blue,
mournful and sad.
But what of light?
What color light would grief be?

The essence you brought was a light,
a beacon.
Perhaps then, this mortal form
is but a way to transform light,
a prism.
Shining from the spirit
through the body,
into life as the limitless colors of you.

Each expression and action had its own shimmering shade.
Each smile a slightly different red.
Each raised eyebrow a kind of blue.
Each laugh a vibrant, iridescent violet.
Each beat of your loving heart an orange I had never before seen.
Each compassionate word a unique and gentle yellow.
Each caring touch wrapped in a bouquet of greens.
Each song you sang brought a burst of indigo.

My grief therefore, cannot be limited to one color,
like you, it is a brilliant rainbow,
painful for the eyes to linger upon
and yet too beautiful to look away.

Reverently, I take up a life’s great brush with both hands,
and paint a portrait of you
using all the colors of grief.

In honor of Sibylle Borger, Lisa Rakoczy and Ralph Davis

Friday, July 26, 2013

A Wish on a Shooting Star

The tradition is to make a wish on a shooting star. Well I do have a wish to make, but not on your traditional shooting star from the heavens. It’s more related to the kind of shooting star referenced in the Bad Company song by the same name. The lyrics keep running through my head, Don’t you know that you are a shooting star – And all the world will love you just as long – As long as you are – A shooting star.

I don’t really get into the whole celebrity culture thing, though admittedly I did when I was younger with posters of U2 and Sting in my room.  And there aren’t a whole lot of TV shows I get hooked on anymore. However, my daughters did get me to start watching Glee a few years ago. For me it’s kind of like the Breakfast Club in TV form, where all the misfits (even the popular ones) find a place to be themselves and feel accepted.  Only in Glee, they sing about everything.  It’s a fun show that we like to watch together.

As you probably already know, one of the “stars” of Glee, Cory Monteith, recently died due to a combination of drugs and alcohol. He was 31 years old. For me it also brought to mind the death of River Phoenix, an incredibly talented actor who also died young. I remember feeling so sad at his death.

It set me to wondering about these shooting stars. Of course we will never know exactly what drove them to the choices they made and I know that no one forced them to do the things that they did, but I do wonder about this celebrity culture we have created and where our responsibility lies. I believe it’s worth thinking about. I also wonder about the loved ones they left behind.  

So here’s the wish (wishes really) I would make on Cory’s shooting star. I wish for a culture where we don’t put you on a pedestal. I wish for a world where just because you are a well-known actor, we don’t make you out to be more than just the human being with normal human feelings that you are. I wish we didn’t make it so easy for you to have access to the things you can take that will hurt you. Because I’m willing to bet that our overcrowded prisons are not overcrowded with the people who sell drugs to celebrities or with the doctors who give them prescriptions for things they might not really need. I wish we had a justice system that actually held you accountable for your actions, rather than letting you off easy the first 50 times. I wish that we held ourselves accountable for the pedestals we put you on, and for the way we treat you in public, as if you owed us something just for being famous. Most of all Cory, I wish we didn’t overvalue you and your beautiful self, so that you could come to know how much value your life has all on your own. Perhaps then, you might still be with us today to continue shining that bright light of yours. Finally, I wish I never have to make this wish again.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Negative Space

Just last week I completed my training as a volunteer at Mary Washington Hospice. I sat in on a writing group that is available to those who are grieving. Little did I know that this week one of the writing topics for the group would become so personal.

It’s not so much an empty chair, as an empty spot in the circle. It’s not really even a circle anymore, because there is a hole where she used to sit.

Now I truly understand what they mean by negative space in art. Wikipedia defines it as, “the space around and between the subject(s) of an image. Negative space may be most evident when the space around a subject, and not the subject itself, forms an interesting or artistically relevant shape, and such space is occasionally used to artistic effect as the "real" subject of an image.”

In this case, that hole in the circle, that negative space truly is the “real” subject of the image in my mind. It is an image of a school room lit by sunlight with a carpet at one end for sitting upon when it’s time to gather and share, or for sitting upon when it’s time to work.  It is an image of a safe space where children are the focus and where teachers are friends and guides, partners in learning. It is an image that includes my young daughter’s face either intense with concentration or filled with the excitement of having learned something new that she wants to show me. It is an image of a peaceful place of learning. Before this week, in that image there was a dedicated woman, a dedicated teacher offering the gift of a lifetime of joy in learning. The unexpected and tragic loss of her life is what now creates the negative space in the image of that circle in my mind.

Due to the sadness I feel, I’m tempted to label the space negative in the sense that negative is bad. However, I can’t label the space that way due to the woman that used to sit there. What she left behind is much too positive for that. She was gentle and giving, patient and kind. In truth that space where she used to sit isn’t empty at all. It is filled with the love she gave, it is filled with the lessons she taught, it is filled with the laughter of children, the excitement of learning to read, the joy of friendship. That space is positive because it still radiates the love she offered to so many children, it still radiates the joy of learning that she instilled. The circle is complete after all, despite the ache I feel.

For Miss Sibylle
July 3, 2013