The morning that Dan died I had a dream that a white wolf was sitting on my bed, facing me with his paws on my chest. I could feel his weight, sense the moisture of his breath and smell his fur. We were breathing together in stillness except for the gentle rise and fall of my chest. I wasn't scared. Even in my dream, I remembered lines from a Clarissa Pinkola Estes book where she describes the nature of wolves and how they huddle, sway and breathe together before a hunt. Wolves know that they are most powerful when they are in sync with the pack and that it is a necessary step before launching into the world.
So we huddled, swayed and breathed together on that bed and this wolf's gaze held me in perfect nothingness. It wasn't blank, just pure. I heard Dan say my name and woke up. The dream was over, I knew he was dead and that there was no longer anything to do. I laid in the gaze of nothingness until I could accept that there was a day ahead of me which was only slightly less overwhelming than the idea that there was a whole life ahead of me.
Grief has always made me feel as if I was moving underwater and death has always put me at odds with the world around me. I never once said,"Why him?" But as long as I am being completely honest I have often asked, "Why me?" While the world around me spent a decade getting engaged, marrying, and having babies, I was watching death creep into my life and escort my most beloved ones out the door. It was never quick, it was always painful, and there were weekends and mornings and late nights in hospital chairs in both Los Angeles and New York. There were heartbreaking confessions laden with the weight of an entire lifetime and a lot of quiet listening. In the last few years my question of "Why me?" has gently shifted into a realization of "Of course, me."
And with that, these losses have revealed themselves to be my greatest teachers.
Last night I shared with someone that all of these experiences had left me feeling like iron being repeatedly pushed into the fire for shaping. A sword being forged over and over and over again until only what is real and everlasting, my core, exists. The process is similar to alchemy and the phase I experienced with this chapter of death was the nigredo.
"Right at the beginning you meet the dragon, or as the alchemists called it, the blackness, the nigredo, and this encounter produces suffering..." - Carl Jung
It was a time in my life where everyone around me chirped about love and light while I was doing all I could just to keep my shadows at bay. With a final death came a final realization, that my walls are my wounds and that my shadows have just as much to teach me as the light does. My resistance to this natural process was how the suffering came in. My eventual acceptance of this natural process was where the peace came in.
These days when I think about death I immediately think about all that I want to do in this life. When I grieve my loved ones I show up more fully for the love that is present in my life today.
"The good is so good but the bad is so useful." - Nadia Bolz-Weber