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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“No winter lasts forever; no spring skips its turn.” – The words of nature writer Hal Borland

Perhaps the turning of the year, the coming of flowers and sunlight, is hard for you this season. Perhaps the beckoning of the outdoors reminds you of the swiftness of time, of a sad anniversary, or a past outdoor adventure with a cherished animal companion. For those of us who have lost a beloved friend, a passing season may renew our regret, or even bring self-recrimination.

Because we feel we know and are known by our pets, we can beat ourselves up for how confused or ignorant we might feel when making end-of-life decisions for them. Of course we do our best to imagine what they are feeling; we can listen to what the experts think; and we can still wish they would speak to us and help us know for sure what they are going through, what their wishes are, how we might help.

It’s hard to accept that we can’t know about something so important. And it can be hard to accept that we did the best we could, in the moment or moments we had. Self-acceptance might be, then, exactly what we are being called on to practice right now.

So here’s a practice that may be helpful when you’re drawn into that dark place: try sitting quietly, your body comfortably seated, with a calming focal point. Focus on a point or special image or candle flame. As you sit, concentrate only on your breathing. Imagine breathing into your very center that you are enough; breath in the wisdom that you did your utmost to love, to be present with, and to help ease suffering of your beloved. Breathe out thoughts of love, peace, or a warm farewell.

May the increasing light and warmth bring to us all a blossoming acceptance of ourselves and the completeness of our love.

 

Spring in the desert

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