On Saturday, some neighbours and I gathered in a park on the oceanside to say goodbye to our friend Nancy who died one month ago in her trailer around the corner from us. She has no family here (her 17-year old daughter left the island immediately afterwards in the care of family), and she didn’t live here long enough for there to be a big community send off. I realized if there was going to be anything, it would be me who organized it, and so I did. I don’t believe any life should pass unnoticed if we can help it.
Nancy died of heart failure after a long run with the flu which turned into pneumonia. She had an underlying heart problem, and I believe that her extended illness as well as some other personal stressors contributed to her heart giving out when it did. I saw her the week before she passed, and it was clear she was not well though I had no idea she was that close to the end. So, as I said on Saturday, our neighbour with underlying conditions died from “just the flu” at 61, and I think that’s worth paying attention to right now.
At the park, we gathered at a safe distance from each other, about fifteen of us in a large circle spaced six feet apart. We chanted together, took stones and wrote messages of well-being on them, and took turns sharing our thoughts with each other (shouting to be heard) before I said a final transition prayer. We broke off from each other again, as singles or pairs, and walked home to our houses and yard work, the warm sun beckoning us to stay outside a little while longer.
It’s probably not surprising that I’ve felt a stronger spiritual calling than ever during this time. So strong, in fact, that some old questions about my spiritual place in community have surfaced and become a bit more insistent for answers. On Saturday morning when I went down to the water to collect stones for our ritual, I took some time to meditate and listen, listen, listen to the ocean, the birds, and my own inner voice. Though it’s difficult to put into words, a new understanding came to me about the path that I’m on, and by the time I turned towards home I felt one more step take root in me.
As much as the atmosphere is strained in the village, I am grateful for the quiet that has come over our island. So much less activity on the roads, in the water, in the households around us. We are deeply at rest, it seems, and I have more time than ever to settle into really being here with nothing calling me away.