This weekend as I write marks important religious holidays relating to resurgence. Easter celebrates the miracle of resurrection. Passover tells the story of the liberation of slaves from Egypt. Here in Devon the sun shines brilliantly as tulips raise their heads, reminding us again of the return of life as it rises up from the dark underworld to meet the growing light of day.
I love spring. I also am fascinated by the two doorways of life: birth and death. It seems to me that every spring we are faced again with the meeting of these gateways. Birth is everywhere as delicate new plants come through the earth, as baby animals find their way out of the womb, as hope returns. And, where there is birth, there is also death. The snow in my cold country of Canada finally melts as winter recedes into memory until next year. Life in the womb completes as birth occurs. The placenta and its umbilical cord are left to wither and die. The sick and elderly do not always make it through the winter. Even in our modern times, the flu and falls take lives of the frail in the short days of winter. Families, like mine, may be different as sun returns and one of its members does not.
I am still recovering after the intense months of winter, with my father passing in November, and my mother doing poorly and suddenly moving into a care home last month. For the first time in my life, I felt familial protectiveness in every cell of my body. There was nothing as important to me last month as helping my mother move safely into the care home. I have never had my own children, but I felt I knew now the feeling a mother has when leaving her little toddler in the care of others. I wanted to be there. I wanted to make sure she was happy and had everything she wanted. Changing flights and making many phone calls in order to be available touched my heart in ways it had perhaps never been touched. I feel incredible relief and joy seeing my mother is happier and healthier than she has been in years!
My last five days in Canada were about clearing out my mother’s apartment. As she began her happy new life in the care home, I swept away the remains of the old life she and my father had lived. Death met me head on in every corner, every drawer. There was no pretending it hadn’t happened. All I could do was practice, again and again, being present.
In presence, death is every moment. Birth is always. The miracle of rebirth happens now, and now, and now.
From that perspective, there is not death and there is always death. There is no birth and there is always birth. Each moment new. Each moment fresh. The grief and tears for what has been are part of the beauty of this moment. How would it be to be unable to feel? How would it be to live without this social nervous system that enables me to sense connection with another, and permits the exquisite tenderness of love.
What more is there?