Death is not new to me.
Since I was 17, I’ve lost someone semi-annually, sometimes more often. Loss isn’t something we get good at navigating. Grief is weird. I lost a dear friend, Puck, last fall. I was teaching in Oswego, IL. I didn’t cry when I got the news, but I cried at the airport, embracing the archetype of Disheveled Weeping Woman At Gate B32. I didn’t cry at his service later that week, but while writing the obituary (a task he would have naturally taken for a community member’s passing), I wept–angry–because he would have done a better job and he wasn’t around to do it. Then I didn’t cry for months until I saw someone on the subway who vaguely looked like him and there came the floods again.
I dedicated my book in part to Puck. I’d received the news about its publication just a few days before he died, but I never got to tell him.
On Spring Equinox, I lost one of my women mentors. Just this past Monday, I lost another.
Death did this to me once before–claiming my two women mentors in theatre just weeks from one another. Now it’s happened with the Craft. There’s a huge part of me that just doesn’t know what to do, now.The most surreal part about death is its mere simplicity. Sure, estates and probate and the legal stuff around death are nasty knots. But at its core, death is not complicated at all. The people you’ve lost simply aren’t there, anymore. That’s it. That’s all. They’re just gone.
I can’t ask Judy with a question about a tricky Priestessing situation.
I won’t see Margot at a Cafe Vivaldi show.
I’ll never see Judy raise up her hands in energy, closing her eyes and moving with the Spirit at a rite.
I’ll never hear Margot’s singing at a bonfire.
I won’t get another chance to make Judy my Mac n’ Cheese, which she said was the best she’d ever had. (She said it before she knew I’d made it, so she REALLY MEANT IT!
I won’t get to share another cab ride uptown with Margot.
I wish I’d asked the questions I had when I had them, as I still have them. I wish I’d gotten over my “don’t want to bug them” and just bugged them, anyway. I wish I’d opened my email a few more times. I wish I’d picked up the phone more often.
I wish I could get one more note from Margot like this:
Judy would send me links to CSA and we would exchange chant lyrics and songs. She invited me to parties and dinners. She would hold my hands after a Sabbat and tell me she felt like her life’s work was not in vain. It always made me squirm. She was so much greater than I–I never felt like I earned that praise.
I have more stories, but they all lead to one thing: Both of these women, in ways both direct and subtle, made me feel like I’m doing something right in a role and world in which it often feels like I’m doing everything wrong. I don’t have them to reassure me, anymore. I guess it’s time to put on the big-girl panties and figure it out on my own. I can only rely on their memories of what they’ve said and hope I’m remembering it, right. I know I’m far from alone in feeling this way.
To make this about my loss and the loss to my immediate community would not only be self-centered, it would undermine the true contribution of these women. Their work touched thousands of lives. How many thousands more will be affected by their legacy? There’s a beauty in losing someone you love who is beloved by countless others. Reading an obit on NPR or the Huffington Post may be hard, but then you realize you’re not alone. You don’t have to explain your lost loved one to others. Many knew their work, either having read their books or heard their work on the radio and share the loss, even if they never met them in person.
Also, I am lucky. I still have my High Priestess who has been with me from the beginning, and who is always there to answer the call when I need it. I’ve lost the local support as she’s far away, but true Spirit doesn’t care about distance.
I’m wrapping this up with a screenshot of the last email I got from Margot:
I don’t know how anything is going to happen without these people. A world without them makes no sense. But if the alternative is quitting, that doesn’t make sense either. I guess we can all clomp along as best we can, being thankful we had them in the first place and to be mindful to take more pictures, ask more questions, be even more present in all that we do, going forward.
Also, everything can be solved with a few Tori Amos lyrics. This verse from “Carry” saves my soul. I hope it saves yours, too:
So that now
Cathedrals of sound are singing, are singing
The waves have come to walk with you
To where you will live in the land of you,
Land of you
You will not ever be forgotten by me
In the procession of the mighty stars
Your name is sung and tattooed now on my heart
Here I will carry, carry, carry you
Blessed be their blessed memories.