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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On January 2, I Googled “resolution” trying to figure out if I should make one or not. One of the top definitions was “audio quality.” Combined with a wonderful Havel poem I’d just read, talking about being able to hear “the Voice of Being,” I woke up, in a Zen kind of way.

How’s your audio quality today, at the turning of the year?Is our direction forward clear and hopeful, or are we receiving only static, distracted by loss and pain?

Are we feeling, “Boy, this could be the beginning of a great adventure of the soul!” or “I despair of ever finding my way, grounding my life in meaning again.”

In a group of soulmates, we may find ourselves in good company for getting better resolution: maybe gather the willpower to listen harder to the soft voice within. It’s important because the power to listen more intently means being more responsive and responsible in our relationships. And this can be an especial challenge in inter-species friendships.

Resolutions are a mixed bag: we don’t want or need the guilt, the sense of failure, that comes with failing them. I avoided making resolutions for years thinking I didn’t need this kind of baggage, but a few years ago I began to think of resolutions differently: I began to think of them as I do prayer – as putting my own Voice of Being out there as intention. And I noticed others are thinking along these lines – a Twitterer posed it this way: What is your intention for the new year?

Each one of us plays a part in sending and receiving the Voice of Being. It may be the most important thing we do to keep our relationships vital and healthy. Being moral beings means we have a responsibility to listen with all that we have to one another. This isn’t easy- it takes a spiritual practice or moral discipline, or whatever you want to call it.

I know I haven’t been listening with all my being lately, with worrisome effects on my loved ones:

For instance, I recently took my dog to the vet for her annual check-up and learned that I had been lazy: I stopped using her tick repellent too early this fall, so she now has Lyme disease. And because I didn’t pay enough attention to how much I was snacking her as the weather got lousy, she’s gained a bit too much weight. (She’s now on amoxycillin and a diet, and doing well.)

Even people of good will and good faith can forget is that not listening all out, our antenna quivering, prevents us from being atuned, one-tuned, singing the same song.

One more story about listening: the author Elisabeth Tova Bailey (fell very ill with a mysterious and severely debilitating virus and could only hear the voice of despondence and despair. She was given a gift – a friend found a snail and brought it, along with a little of its woodland terrain, to her to amuse her as she was incapable of doing much but lie still. She watched this small mollusk day in and day out; she saw a creature whose life and limits were even narrower than hers – and this gave her perspective and hope. Witness to the life of the humblest of beings, to the dignity and integrity with which it went about its days, then becoming involved in caring for it and its family, she gained greater compassion and less self-pity.

So for the year ahead I hope you will join me in a rededication to living with high fidelity, to being more responsive and responsible in our actions- to continue to grow our hearts. I know I’m not the first or only one to become a bit deaf to the symphony that is life– and I’m very grateful for my communities, which help center me in what matters, which help me better hear the laughter and the tears of the cosmos. Happy New Year!

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