Sunday, March 14, 2010

an alchemical weekend

My husband and I spent most of yesterday and on through the evening at Gerry's memorial service and a smaller celebration of his life afterward. I don't think I've ever attended such a moving memorial - the service was standing room only, with probably a thousand people in attendance. The smaller celebration (which in my mind was going to be more intimate) had around 200 people. 

Gerry's family were amazing people, who all spoke beautifully at the service and then stood for nearly two hours receiving all the friends who had come to honor him. It was easy to see where Gerry got his gift of friendship - his parents, brothers, and extended family were gracious and made each person feel honored to be there. Gerry's wife Mandy was a pillar of strength who did the same thing.

And the celebration afterward had music, beer, barbecue, a revolving slide show of photos, mementos everywhere, a wall to write on, a room for friends to tell stories on videotape, and an amazing group of people all completely open to talking about Gerry, about how his death has moved them, and about how they intend to move on with their lives.

It was about Gerry - and yet it was also about every single one of his friends and family. I don't think anyone could have made that happen had they tried - Gerry's gift in life is also his gift in death. Nothing was ever only about him - he engaged with everyone he met on a deep and genuine level, and that was what the celebration was all about.

Last night I dreamed all night long, dreams full of people and conversation and situations. Each time I woke up (I think I woke up twice during the night and many times this morning) I fell back asleep only to dream again, and again. I think my brain was trying to process all the energy from yesterday, clearing it out of my head.

Today was different and yet the perfect partner to yesterday.

We cleared beds, we burned cuttings and yard debris. We stripped a stall and removed mats and cleared the surface beneath. The day rolled on with work and a few breaks and tonight I think I will sleep soundly. I'm exhausted. But in a good way.

There was something about yesterday that felt like the alchemical process: transforming tragedy into gold. As today's burning and clearing has felt like a process of purification, cleansing, and readying for spring. It's almost too big to write about - one of those passages of time that is so full, you can only live through it, absorb every bit of it you can absorb, and trust that the experience will ripple out through the rest of your life, something important and relevant and sacred.

Thanks, Gerry, for leaving us with so much.


Matthew said...

You always write so observantly and eloquently about everything.

"Nothing was ever only about him - he engaged with everyone he met on a deep and genuine level". Just beautifully seen, understood and written.

billie said...

Thanks, Matthew - this in particular was easy to observe, as it was so clear and radiant on Saturday.

Dawn said...

So sorry to hear about Gerry, but how wonderful his life was such a testimony and a joy to others. My thoughts and prayers are with you guys.

Billie- such a wonderful point about burning and clearing--kindof like preparing for new life.

" everything turn, turn, turn.." I've been listening to that a lot lately. Mainly because it comes from my fav book of the Bible, but moreover, it just, well, it just makes sense in so many ways.

billie said...

Dawn, it's true, the turning metaphor.

Reminds me of that song Simple Gifts:

'Tis the gift to be simple, 'tis the gift to be free,

'Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be,

And when we find ourselves in the place just right,

'Twill be in the valley of love and delight.

When true simplicity is gain'd,

To bow and to bend we shan't be asham'd,

To turn, turn will be our delight,

Till by turning, turning we come round right.