This morning my wife called me from the nursing home to let me know her mother had just made her transition. I had visited and said my goodbyes to her last night.
It’s been my experience that whenever there is a death around me, it generally opens me to thoughts upon all kinds of reflections on the mystery of life. Random thoughts. Today is no different.
After getting the call, I put Penny’s leash on her and took her for her daily walk around the neighborhood. In moments of loss, I tend to find some comfort in the routines of life.
All around me were reminders of the “circle of life”. The late September falling of leaves is firmly in process. The light rail clicking by and the distant sounds of the morning traffic called forth the early stages of a society moving back into a post-pandemic degree of rush hour normalcy. As we wrote about recently, everything continues on through a “cycle of becoming”…..newness, flourishing, release and the void….or stated another way: birth, maturity, death and the gap before starting the cycle over. Things around me are evidence of that cycle.
Returning home is further evidence. Ancient dinosaurs contributed to the gas burning in the fireplace to warm my bones. The filter holding my coffee once was a living tree. The coffee grounds and my bowl of cereal, taken from distant living plants.
My reflective mood is interrupted by Penny who seems to be aware of where I am. She nuzzles me and calls forth my hands to cup her and love on her, telling her “what a good girl” she is. Expressions of love in these moments go a long way. Love among the “living” is a powerful gift to be cherished.
For most of my life, I have considered myself lucky in that I really had not experienced much death of ones close to me. Although my mother passed 15 years or so ago, her long process of dying and the extended period of her suffering called me to experience her transition with feelings of relief. In a sense, I had already “grieved her” before she died.
My greatest lessons in grief came through the 2017 passing of my beloved Harmony, a chocolate lab that was with me for over 14 years and who brought me so much love and joy. I previously wrote about her in the final stages of her life as well as the tremendous pain I experienced afterwards. Mary and I were there holding her as she lay of the table at the vet and the drugs just administered allowed her sweet soul to escape the confines of a failing body. My last words to her were to let her know “what a good girl” she was.
Yet, the cycle of becoming continued and life conspired to remind me what a mysterious existence we are moving through as it brought Penny into my life. I wrote about this previously. I have no doubt that “Penny is Harmony” at the soul level. Yet “Penny is Penny” at the level of personality. Her zest for life constantly reminds me to see the joy in my very existence. Her nuzzles remind me of the infinite power of love. Her very presence reminds me that the circle of life goes on.
In 2018, my ailing father came to live with Mary and I. Although his arrival upended our household, we began to see what a gift it was to be with him in these final days of his life. Not only did we have loving interactions with him, we learned more about the process of ending. Hospice workers came and went. We watched him slowly decline. The energetic sphere of the patriarch of my family was in an ever constant state of shrinkage. We also unfortunately learned a lot about the emotional limits of being a caregiver for those two and a half years. The gifts obviously came with challenges.
When dad passed last November, Mary and I had mixed feelings. We were sad that he was no longer here. We were sad that there were to be no more interactions with his being in the physical. We were relieved to see that he was no longer suffering.
These same feelings are in play today with Susie’s passing.
One of life’s greatest mysteries to me is where does the soul go at death? There is this something that exists in all of us that is here one moment and then after death it’s not.
Harmony’s passing called this question to mind so deeply. The loving entity of that girl, the inner connection we had where we knew what the other was thinking or needing…where is she? We all feel the patterns of our relationships that play out in interactions that we know exist not only in the material realm of life but in the non-physical realm of consciousness, of mind, of that ineffable something that we can’t quite put our fingers on. There is something existing that we all know at the deepest level of our being is the real essence of that “other”….. “real Harmony”, the “real Dad”, the “real Susie”. Where is that something after life leaves the body?
Yes, we tend to “explain” the mystery based on our views about life. Traditional religions offer the solace of a distant physical place called “heaven” to which our soul flies. Scientism says “when you die, that’s the end, adios!” Other spiritual teachings suggest a transcendence of the soul to new places or new incarnations. Yes, we can understand all these viewpoints on an intellectual level but I’m not sure no matter what we believe that any of them really satisfactorily answer the question we are feeling after the moment of transition of a loved one….”where is Harmony?”, “where is Dad?”, “where is Susie?”.
New Thought and the Science of Mind teaches the “eternality of life”. In other words, as we shed our earthly physical forms, that ineffable something that we consider to be “us” continues on beyond the physical. It’s like releasing an old set of clothes and taking on new garments for the soul. This cycle of becoming continues on in some manner that is not always clear to us.
Ernest Holmes, the founder of Science of Mind, liked to say that he didn’t believe in reincarnation necessarily because he felt that it contained limitations. Why not see that when we left this world and this dimension, we were not limited to simply coming back here. We were somewhere before we were born into this world. Our birth here on earth did not limit us but instead offering us the gifts and freedoms of this life. Why would death here not have the same expansive nature that our earthly birth did? That is our birth into this world offered us the opportunity to have this glorious experience, would our transition to the next phase or “level” of existence not come with an expansion to more freedoms and experiences? Holmes felt that our transition offered us the opportunity to ever higher levels and dimensions of experience.
Yet many in New Thought still see reincarnation as a strong possibility. I believe that Harmony came back as Penny, so I certainly see and believe that reincarnation is working around me.
In truth, I believe it doesn’t have to be either-or. We could leave this world and move into an ever expanding experience of higher dimensions in some cases. Or, at other times, repeat the cycle here, especially if there are more lessons we need to learn here. That’s what I tend to believe. Yet, I still sit in the mystery of this whole experience.
What is not a mystery to me is the great gift that our time here on earth truly is. In spite of the sad moments in my life, in spite of the moments of suffering, I know at the essence of my being that this life is a glorious opportunity to experience all that occurs….the “good”, the “bad”, the “beautiful”, the “ugly”. All of these occurrences in their own way is a wonderful gift from Spirit to this thing I call “me”. Including the sorrowful experience of loss through death of a loved one which can be a call to all of us to value our time here, to see the good in all, to love and experience this physical life to the fullest.
So on this day, I reaffirm to myself to see my life and all of my experiences as a blessing. I know especially that every relationship that has and continues to fill my life is true gift, offering me the opportunity to know and feel the powerful essence of love at the deepest level.
May we all live each day in the awe and wonder of the gift we get to experience.
Susie, I love you and bless you wherever you are. Thank for the gifts you gave all of us during your time here. Thank you for the reminder to enjoy this thing called life here on earth while we can.
Love and blessings to all of you. ~ Mark