GNL number 41

the GOOD NEWS lately

a report of doings at meeting #41, Sunday, October 10, 2010
including liturgical notes, major themes, and other odds and ends

INVOCATION

Your life feels different on you, once you greet death and understand your heart’s position.
You wear life like a garment from the mission bundle sale ever after–
lightly because you realize you never paid nothing for it.
Cherishing because you know you won’t ever come by such a bargain again.
—Louise Erdrich


THEME

This meeting was special not only because it was the second one this month, but because it was so enriched by our two visitors, Anna’s friend from NYC, Duane, who was here for the first time, and Adair’s daughter Robbin, making a second visit.  COME AGAIN, both of you!!!

Sue brought, as she promised last time, a thought-provoking list of quotes, which she read to the group, as well as a beautiful poem by Gunilla Norris about learning to live and die like a flower.  See AFTERWORDS for all of these.

Anna reiterated her sense of no special commemoration required, and then, expanding on her wish that her body go to medical research, said she didn’t think of this as disposing, but as allowing her body to be of use to the world.  And as also promised, Anna  brought Duane, her friend of more than 50 years, and introduced him.

Duane also spoke of having no interest in a memorial, and in fact said, ‘put me in a Hefty-bag’, as he had believed since a vivid, childhood experience that he has lived and died before, and will again.  He told of having left his family of origin early, feeling his and their values incompatible, and making a life in NYC as a photojournalist and computer programmer. He showed us a small book he’s enjoyed, The Book of Questions (to help clarify your values).  Duane also thanked Jack for not only his warm, welcoming home, but his warm, kind eyes.  And Jack gave him a copy of his book on the History of African-Americans in Schoharie County.

Like Anna, Ann repeated her no-fuss-needed feeling, while understanding memorial services do some good.  Which led to further discussion about what we’re doing when we have them—remembering, celebrating, honoring a person; and making the bereaved feel a little better, helping them through their grieving.

Adair made observations from her long experience in the health profession, especially as social worker in hospitals, where she is frequently helping people in end of life situations; she said she’s often seen families’ difficulties when decision-making for the end of life has not been done thoughtfully and clearly.  She urges everyone to do this planning carefully.  Adair also reported her critically ill friend has begun a new course of chemotherapy and continues to live her life positively.

Robbin had recently experienced the sudden death in a car accident of her dear hound dog, Slim.  And she shared that story with us—the shock, not knowing what to do, ending up doing what her mom suggested: rather than bury him, taking him to the wooded place where he loved to roam and leaving him there, where in a process that took four days, nature took his body back.  She said she’d asked herself if she should have kept him from roaming, but ultimately realized, no, he was who he was, and died being a hound. Robbin also spoke of sharing news of our meetings with her friend Brenda, and feeling like the two of them have a little COS going down there.

Jack had trouble speaking but did say, because of the Parkinson’s, he can’t walk now, and he used to walk all the time. The rest of us knew that Jack was a great and daily walker all his adult life, so this was difficult, but we responded that he was still, still, always Jack, and told him how much he means to us—all we have to do is see him or even think of him, and we remember how we want to live our lives.   (And this exchange was much of the reason we chose the topic Other Endings for next time.)

Nancy, citing thought-threads she brought home from last week’s meeting, said she couldn’t bear the thought of leaving her family with all the junk in her house, and all week had been sorting and recycling.  And recalling the impulse to write a letter, she began to hear the inevitable postscript to that idea: Now Now Now—Why not do more of these loveletters in whatever form—note, conversation, playing, laughing, working, time together Now.

Our offering today was given to another organization close to home, the Schoharie Land Trust.


BENEDICTION

When I die if you need to weep
Cry for your brother or sister
Walking the street beside you,
And when you need me put your arms around anyone.
And give them what you need to give me.
I want to leave something,
Something better than words or sounds.
Look for me in the people I’ve known or loved.
And if you cannot give me away
At least let me live in your eyes and not in your mind.
You can love me most by letting hands touch hands,
By letting bodies touch bodies
And by letting go of children that need to be free.
Love doesn’t die, people do,
So when all that’s left of me is love,
Give me away.
—Anonymous


NEXT TIME

Sunday, November 14, 2010 (1030), at Jack’s. Our topic, following from these last two meetings, is Other Endings.


AFTERWORDS

from Sue:

  • “Each of us must climb that same mountain. And if we are to unlock the blessing, the transforming love that is in us, we must stand without flinching, in the presence of Death.” ~Reb Shefa Gold,“Vezot HaBrakha” Commentary on the last portion of Deuteronomy, Torah Journeys—The Inner Path to the Promised Land, BenYehuda Press, 2006, p.221-5
  • “Death is “….a mirror in which the entire meaning of life is reflected.” Sogyal Rinpoche, The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying
  • “Love is as strong as Death.” ~Song of Songs 8:6
  • “…the ego-self is such an expert at holding on. She is the consummate survivor and preserver of the status quo which is in her eyes the only ‘sure thing.’ The great spiritual challenge that Vezot HaBrakha gives us is to risk the known in order to step into the unknown.” ~Reb Shefa p.223
    “It is human to die with unfinished business and unfulfilled dreams.” ~Rabbi Sandra J. Cohen, “The Loss of Moses,” The Women’s Torah Commentary, Rabbi Elyse Goldstein, Editor, Jewish Lights Publishing, 2000, p. 401
  • “Our death is not an end if we can live on in our children and the younger generation. For they are us, our bodies are only wilted leaves on the tree of life.” Albert Einstein
  • And a poem from Gunilla Norris (from Being Home: Discovering the Spiritual iin Everyday Life):
  • Arranging Flowers

    I put these tulips in a simple vase.
    They are white, virginal, so themselves
    that they remind me of nakedness, of truth.
     These tulips are in full bloom and they will wither.
    Their life is no different from mine,
    but to bear that life with consciousness is so difficult.
    When I allow myself to commune  with these flowers,
    I knowI am asked to come into fragrance and fruition
      …to blossom fully and then to let go.
    Like these flowers I am blooming and dying.
    How mysterious this is.
    I bow to you, tulips.

    from Nancy:

    All goes onward and outward, nothing collapses,
    And to die is different from what any one supposed, and luckier…
    They are alive and well somewhere,
    The smallest sprout shows there is really no death,
    And if there ever was, it led forward life,
    and does not wait at the end to arrest it,
    And ceas’d the moment life appear’d.
    —Walt Whitman

    She whom  we love  and lose
    is no longer where she was before.
    She is now wherever we are.
    —St. John Chrysostom

    Not for me steel coffins  Nor even a pinewood box.
    Lay me out in the wilderness   And let me return to Earth.
    Tear my flesh, coyote And I will run with you  over the plains.
    Take my eyes, eagle  And I will soar with you  In the mountains.
    Pick my bones clean, little beetles  And I will flow back Into the lifestream
    To think like a mountain
    And sing like a river
    —Mary de La Valette

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