Oftentimes September 20th comes at me by surprise. I wake up one morning and suddenly it’s here. This year is different. This year I’ve been watching it approach, anticipating its arrival, waiting to greet it like a guest stopping over on a long journey.
Maybe it’s because of the work I’ve been doing around the energy that September is ushering in, bringing awareness to any unfinished business or unresolved intentions in my life. Letting go of them once and for all, applying dedicated discipline and persistence towards practice and completion. Cleaning out material possessions I no longer need. It feels right and good, like I’m expanding my lungs with a deep, baby-bellyful breath.
Or maybe it’s because I’ve been contemplating grief a lot these days. Grief long hidden and unexpressed. Exploring what grief looks and feels like, turning it over, feeling it in my hands, probing with my fingers for any nooks and crannies where grief can hide like infinitesimal grains of sand. We, in the west, aren’t practiced or comfortable in the ritual of grief, either outward or inward.
I thought I was well prepared this year for the coming of September 20th, the twelfth anniversary of my father’s death. We siblings have our own small ritual to mark and honour his death and it begins with a morning email from my oldest brother with the simple subject line, dad. For me, this exchange of emails always brings me back to that day in the hospital when we all gathered around his bed one last time, his spirit in the room but no longer within his body. The string of time folds in and I am both here and there at the same time. And always I’m surprised.
This year I’m in the best place possible, in the peace of Hollyhock, immersed in the loving, holding space of my Art of Spiritual Guidance community. We’re beginning our second year of training/instruction/practice (it’s all these words and a hundred more) and I’m drawing the Home of my Soul. I have a handful of crayons and pencil crayons and a large piece of paper in front of me. It’s full of promise and potential and suddenly I’m filled with incredible sadness. It spills out of my eyes and stops my hands. Around me the air rustles with crayon strokes and the papers fill with beautiful, colourful images and my sadness is tinged with guilt. I’m not doing this right. I’m not grateful to the gift my soul is giving me. I can’t draw. I can’t…
I sit back with my sadness and sigh three times, letting go of my judgements, both around my drawing ability and around my sadness. Then I pick up a rose-red pencil crayon and begin writing instead, my words creating the images, enticing me to remember what my hands cannot draw.
And then I remember. Today is September 20th, the day my first spiritual teacher died. The home of my soul remembers and gives me the gift of sadness, a sadness that draws me inward to the source of my healing. Today is a day to sit with my sadness and be okay with that, because I know that this too shall pass. I know that on most days I remember my dad with great joy and delight. I know that even as I type my last word here, the sadness will leave and the joy will remain.
As my brother wrote this morning, “Yet, on most days, and particularly on this day, I only remember the infectious fun, joy and intelligence that Dad imparted to all of us.
That will always remain alive.”