The Grace of Showing Up

July 13th, 2014, 3pm

It was 22°C with scattered clouds. The breeze was brisk.

I woke with a hint of The Blues circling my thoughts and heart this morning.

A couple days ago one brother informed me of the death of a distant relative - the bother-in-law of my mother’s sister.

“One of the last few of that generation,” I told my brother, “and you and I are now becoming that generation.”

The next day another brother told me of the death of a cousin’s husband. She herself has cancer and may not be able to attend the funeral. I knew a little of this man and liked him each time I met him. I’ll attend the ‘family celebration’ this evening but probably not the full-scale religious ceremony tomorrow.

I’ll attend to honor my father’s family: my brother and I as stand-ins, at his niece’s present family gathering, for my long dead father.

Also I believe in the ‘ministry of presence’ and the honor given by ‘showing up’. Tonight I’ll renew acquaintance with some family and maybe share family stories once again.

That’s the essence of funerals for me now; the religious not so much. I don’t pray for the ‘repose of souls’. The whole Christian heaven thing is fraught with difficulties. For an example (trivial I know) I don’t think I would much enjoy sharing time and opinion with those most likely to be there. My grandmother, seldom on the good side of the church during her life, once drove one of her daughters to tears proclaiming from her wheel chair that she’d rather go to hell than heaven because all her friends would be in hell. Now I understand her thinking.

The best Christian sermon on death, I think, is the Ash Wednesday proclamation “Remember man that you are dust and to dust you shall return.” I’ve always heard that as “Don’t waste time; do and leave behind as much good as possible”

So I’m outside walking off a small whiff of the Blues and discover a strong, strong West wind to help clarify my spirit. The Ojibwe, the people native to this place, and perhaps the best interpreters of this spot of earth on which I live say of the West :

’The western direction is the adult stage, the berry stage. It is here that the growth from summer has come to ripen. It is the time of harvest, and so for much of creation the physical journey is over, and that life crosses back into the spirit world. The sun setting in the west signifies the death of a day. And so we die many deaths in a lifetime. And just as an old thought or feeling dies, and a new one emerges, we die many deaths in a single day. So there is constant change within us. We dance around that western doorway many times in a day to honour the death spirit. As we move through adulthood, death and loss become more and more visible. In the light of death, it is important that we accept that constant change is here with us.’

Shu said thanks.

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Ken Jackson

An avid outdoors man. Retired and retiring, living on the shore of Lake Superior

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