Thursday, March 13, 2014

For What Happens After

A few days ago, I awoke with this phrase, “For what happens after” on my mind and before brushing my teeth, I went looking for its source online. It sounded like a tag on the end of an insurance commercial for repairing the damage after a tornado or earthquake; certainly someone had used it in a marketing campaign? As of this writing, I haven’t located it (though it’ll likely show up as an ancient slogan once used by the Medes and Persians to sell rugs and golf clubs). Anyway, that’s not why I’m here. I wanted to share a very personal moment and I do so because I think it might be helpful for some.

The day after the Esther’s amazing book signing, Lori and I met 14 of Esther’s friends (all from Catitude) at her gravesite in Medway. For most of them, this was a first visit. After some time, I gathered these cats at the foot of Esther’s grave and read from her words. I reminded them that she had instructed us about how she wanted to be remembered.

I do think about dying a lot, but I don’t know. I feel like I’ve finally like, grasped that I’d no longer live on Earth. But I’m working on the actual progress of death and the people missing me part, you know?
Maybe, (or maybe not.) you’re interested in hearing “my” heaven? My heaven would be this all green hill-side with a really blue sky, and lots of pink and colorful flowers, that’s completely calm and serene, that I could run and run and run through – without oxygen. It’d just be really nice.
Maybe one day I’ll get to do that : )  I don’t even remember what I thought about anything even a year ago. Maybe you don’t either. Maybe brains just forget what they thought earlier or something.
I do hope that when the day comes, whether in 1, 10, or 100 years, I don’t want you to think of me and feel sad. Even now, while I’m alive, don’t think of me and say, “Poor girl. It’s sad she’s sick”. Not that you do that. Think of me and think of the sunshine, and how I looove animals, and drawing something nice. (Esther Earl, TSWGO, p 126-7)
I read the passage twice, and both times I couldn’t get through it without tears. It was the first time that weekend that I had cried. Imagine, these gathered and still grieving friends and family members, facing down death with a message about the triumph of a beautiful life well lived, bravely celebrating this person who was, and is.

Borrowing the ancient practice of visualizing a meal with the deceased, I asked them to imagine that they were now with Esther on that sunny hillside and that she had arrived with a picnic lunch to share. “What did she bring to eat and to drink, to share in this communion with her friends?” I asked out loud. In that somber moment, someone mentioned pizza and then one of the cats added, “She brought chocolate-flavored poop!”  Not exactly the answer I expected!

And on that sloped cemetery lawn in the middle of winter we remembered our friend and daughter and we wept and laughed and smiled knowing that she’d brought us together, aware that, though her own work was now “resting in awesome,” our work in her name had really just begun.

After that, we went to get something (normal!) to eat and we all managed to fit around an unusually huge table that seemed to be placed there just for us. I told a woman nearby who was staring at our large group (a true “starer”) that, “Yes, they are all ours” and I think she believed me! But they do all belong to us, these friends of Esther, these Children of Awesome.

So, where do you go after the crash, after the movement of the ground under your feet, on this so-called stable planet that was meant to hold you up, but which has now betrayed and leveled all that matters, rendering you unable to stand, or even to crawl? What do you do when those whom you have treasured are no more? Just maybe, you gather with the ones you love, around a table perhaps, laughing and crying together, eating and drinking and remembering the inspiring WORDS that have been left behind. Then you might consider what needs healing, what good remains undone and get about doing it, in the name of the one who is no longer here. What is left is not better but it is also not less. How can love be less?

As we took up our croissant and coffee, our biscotti and our tea, we found ourselves a new family, this fellowship of the Star, and we gave thanks.

Grace: For what happens after.
(photo Arielle Roberts)