"You are not dying," one of my dearest friends emphatically stated as we shared an embrace. I could feel the heated prickles of saline searing my eyes as I fought back tears.
"It sure feels like a quasi death," came my quavering reply. It didn't seem appropriate to be weeping at what was somewhat my own self-imposed funeral. As the days pass and my time stateside whittles down, I find there are many occasions when I still feel as though it IS my funeral. Recently this chapter from Ralph Fletcher's Marshfield Dreams came to mind:
Revisiting this chapter really hit home for me. Ralph's friends have to bid him farewell in their own ways. They choose humor, shared context, and raw gratitude. As humans we create ceremony for closure. We participate in rites, rituals, and ceremonies to right our ships tossed about on the sea of goodbye. People crave that. While I refuse to say "goodbye" to certain individuals, still these ceremonies are intended to help our minds siphon through the emotions that intensely press in on our hearts and within our minds.
When my grandmother passed away a few years ago the family elected me to eulogize her. After soldiering through publicly sharing my fondest recollections while my heart was rent asunder, one of my gram's friends approached me and said, "It is a shame your grandmother wasn't here to listen to all the wonderful things you shared." I had no doubt my gram knew exactly how I felt about her, but it did make me think that it is unfortunate that most of the time the deepest heartfelt sentiments we have for those closest to us we do NOT take the time to share with them. Once they are gone the words come pouring out. One benefit of being physically present at my own "funeral" is that so many people have taken the time and opportunity to bless me with their deep seated sentiments. It has been humbling, encouraging, and heartbreaking. I have also found I have a driving need to leave some words or tangible gift for to underscore how I cherish my connection with them; lest they forget my feelings when I am not present.
Like Ralph, in Marshfield Dreams, I recall all the things I have done with my closest friends. My friends, like Ralph Fletcher's, have selected ways to ceremoniously say goodbye. I want to preserve and memorialize those precious memories, but right now it all feels too close to the vest and overwhelms me. For now the final meals, beverages, runs, walks, and experiences will have to suffice until I can further honor them with fitting words. Perhaps certain ceremonies and rites have to happen in waves. For now the metaphorical horn is beeping for me, so I keep moving on into this new chapter of life.