May We Become Liberated from the Bondage of the Stalk
oṃ tryámbakaṃ yajāmahe sugandhíṃ puṣṭi-vardhánam
urvārukam íva bandhánān mṛtyor mukṣīya mā ‘mṛtā́t
We worship Lord Shiva the three-eyed one, the one who is the master of all senses and qualities and the one who is the sustainer of all growth. May he release us from the bondage of death, just as a ripened cucumber is released from its stalk, and may he (not deprive us of immortality) grant us immortality.
As I write these words, a loved one is being cremated. He died on May 1, 2022. He leaves a legacy of simplicity, humility, love, and joy. He also has an affinity for chocolate chip cookies, music, and his loved ones. He is already dearly missed.
What does it feel like?
To know that in this moment, this very moment, the physical form one came to know and love is being dismantled by flames. From flesh and bones to ash. There are no words in existence that can describe this sensation; perhaps ineffable comes close.
A pain exists within my chest and in my arms; heaviness, sorrow, relief, love, longing for his laughter or smile. This longing will never be fulfilled and one has to square with that reality. One is left with an option: move to trusting and accepting the unknown…the unknown of what happens after death. Here, faith comes to mind. Did one’s ancestors or spiritual foundation prepare the mind to tolerate the ambiguity, heaviness, sorry, relief, love, or longing?
What does it all mean?
I do not know what it means. I can take a best guess but it would be based on what I have been taught. And so it presents an invitation for each person to create their own meaning. What does it mean to live? To die? To live well? To die well? From my perspective, life is truly a journey of death and rebirth before one actually dies. Living well is embracing the freedom to be reborn like a phoenix rising from the ash of their sufferings. Dying well is leaving a legacy of examples so that generations may become inspired to follow or to improve upon what was offered.
Cry. Life needs water. So does death, in the form of soulful tears. Tears of laughter, joy, and sorrow. To honor the dead or dying with tears is to allow one’s body to shed the pain of unfulfilled longingness. This initiates the transformation process that invites new wisdom and new legacies. To not cry is to inhibit the cultivation of new wisdom and new legacies..to be in perpetual grief. To cry too much is to drown all possibility of the cultivation. So, cry to your heart’s content. Then begin the work of nurturing new wisdom and new legacies.
We aren’t helpless as grieving might invite us to feel. In fact, we are being shown what will eventually happen to us. Death and grieving is an opportunity to choose how we will live the next day, week, month, year, or lifetime. To embrace both sorrow and joy in these moments is to understand ambiguity, trust, and faith. How well do you grieve? Are you converting your losses into gains? It starts with that tear that is welling up that will give life to the new seedlings awaiting your loving hands and heart. So, cry and then celebrate.