Those of you who follow my column are aware that I have been distracted by death for a few weeks. Friends of many years, my age or slightly older, are leaving the planet monthly. As I pray, meditate or just sit in solitude, I am led inside to the memories, a habit of those in their twilight years. I love the idea of twilight—the softest part of the day just before dawn or sunset when all is as peaceful as a Monet painting. The old ones saw this time as a connecting bridge between two worlds—those of the people of Earth and those of the other side. And, behold! As I enter, the memories are there, held, as the Celts believe,
in the temple of your memory where all your vanished days
are secretly gathered and awaiting you.
How much sense that makes to me! The idea that the Soul holds all we have experienced until we age into some version of solitude where we can take the time to wander back through the days and nights of our lives, reviewing and re-awakening without regret or judgment. Who were we? What did we do, learn and teach? This is the purpose of those so-called twilight times. So, today, as I sit in solitude and communion with my dear sister-friend who died yesterday, I am awash in memories.
Irene and me with our husbands, who happen to be of middle east origins, bonding for the first time over grape leaves and kibbeh. We are both pregnant with our second child, full to bursting with shared emotions. We talk every day on the phone: recipes, kids, birth-control (sin or no sin,) and debate confession. We are feminists and believers in civil rights in a quiet way—this was Jacksonville in 1961. Five years later, we cried like babies as my family moved to another city, the telephone still our lifeline. Another five years and she and Joe would be godparents to our last child.
There will be no more phone calls, but an energetic connection in prayer and emotional bonds in memories. I do not fear for my lost beloveds. I know they live on in a place as close as my heart. The great Greek philosopher, Heraclitus, said:
“The Soul has no limits.”
Rather than avoiding the subject of, or realization of, death—as our culture urges—I know that thinking about death, especially our own, leads to a fully lived life. As Socrates, another Greek, opined: “The unexamined life is not worth living.” Death is the final earthly step in every life. It forces us to explore the beauty and opportunity of all facets of life—especially our ability to see that there is much more than the day to day. There is a liminal sacred world around us.
Sorting through our memories reminds us to be aware of the memories we are planting for those who survive us. Will they take comfort and pleasure in the Soul’s gift of memory, as I do with my friend? In that case, we are living well.
“One of the Greatest Sins is the Unlived Life”
As we age, it is a gift to wander in our memories, seeing the vibrancy and joy even when we have experienced great sorrow. Notice how we were strong, brave, vulnerable, loving and giving—and forgive ourselves for the times we were not those things. We are still alive and can make sincere attempts to reconcile our Souls with those we may have wounded—living and dead. And, just as important, forgive those who have wounded us.
Our Soul loves to see us becoming whole and living a Soul-filled life. We are blossoming, even if we are late bloomers. To me, the greatest learning came as I faced my mortality head-on. Death is a great teacher.
Irene, until I see you again, my memories of you are alive and well.