Loving To the End, and Beyond

This spring brought me the gifts of leading a Pet Loss Healing Circle in the Dana Room, as well as  a delightful Blessing of the Animals service at First Parish Church Unitarian Universalist in Bridgewater. In addition, several individuals turned to me in the midst of their loss of a dear companion, or to help their discernment about the end of a pet’s life.  I’m so thankful for these opportunities, and if it sounds weird to call them gifts, read on!

“Gift” can be defined as an “unmissable opportunity,” and most of us would argue that we’d be very happy to skip death, thank you very much. Not an option, says the Universe, Higher Power, or whatever you choose to call that which determines the joys and the parameters of our lives. For me, “not optional” means I’m called to be present to death, as it’s part of creation, an unmissable part of what it means to be alive.

Being with those who mourn their loved ones is a gift for me. Contrary to what I once felt, I’ve found walking with those who grieve reminds us of what love can be: inspiring, joyful, ecstatic (in the “beyond the body” sense of the word) and hard. Really, really hard. Please don’t take my word for it – check out this new book, “Will’s Red Coat,” by Tom Ryan, whose mountaineering adventures with the Buddha-like Atticus went viral a few years ago. His dogs – Atticus and then Will- saved his life, and their stories might transform yours. I’ve read and heard many stories about the end of life, and this one transformed my conviction that love indeed can conquer death.

So if you need a booster shot of hope and a love story to beat them all, here’s the link: https://strikingattheroots.wordpress.com/2017/03/20/book-review-wills-red-coat-by-tom-ryan/

And speaking of love and delight, I’ll be leading our annual Blessing of the Animals service in Lyon Chapel here in Brookline at 10 a.m. on Sunday, August 27th. Hope you and your animal bestie(s) can join us!

With a listening love,
Rev. Eliza

 

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In New England, as you’ve undoubtedly heard, over one hundred inches of snow and ice trap us in, oh so many ways! Our plaints – or rants- about the unusually harsh weather, remind me that when overwhelmed by nature, we experience loss: of independence, of material well-being, of freedoms, of human contact, of control over how we spend our time (Shoveling, chiseling icicles!), of peace of mind (What next?), and more. Many of us are feeling feel aggrieved, as seen in expressions of denial, anger, bargaining, and depression.

Despite the weather this past month, a hearty band of congregants from a local church met three times for what turned out to be a MOST appropriately titled workshop, “Making Light in the Darkness.” In timeless fashion, we honored the darkness within and without with candle light, storytelling, and sharing our successes as well as our stumblings. We tried different forms of spiritual practice, including Laugh Yoga – yes, it’s a real thing, Google it! Simply being together helped us regain our perspective and our hope.

By the third session, we trusted one another enough that we tackled sharing something intimate: we were asked to share when we fell in love with something (place, person, animal, etc.). Sitting in a dim, warm room on one of the coldest nights, we sat and wrote, remembering. Faces reflected puzzlement, joy, rue, and surprise. And we told our stories, full of love and passion, sadness and shyness, all kinds of feelings emerged and were witnessed quietly, tenderly. I won’t ever forget the power of that small circle to shatter our aloneness, our depression, our fear. This is what I offer those of you who are grieving: make time and space for sadness; reach out to compassionate folks; share your stories, memories, loves. And then let time, blessed time, do its healing work.

As we move toward spring, we’ll learn again that in reaching out to one another, supporting one another in ways large and small, and in letting go of some expectations we will gain meaning and depth: we may reach that final stage of grief – acceptance. Or a more meaningful and interconnected lifestyle. Or simply an awareness that we are indeed all in the same ice-bound boat. May we together breathe in peace, and breathe out love.
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