The Way Grief and Love Make Stronger Love

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I’ve been thinking about death a lot lately. Just writing that sounds morbid, like I’m super sad, even depressed, right? It’s not like that though. Not like the grim reaper or something, although death is a weighty caller, no doubt. What’s got me is more like Death and Life are working together to offer an invitation to expand, grow, let go.

Have you ever felt that? Something is showing up in many ways because Life is asking you to be curious, to step into the unknown?

In early April our dear herd member, Cedar, died. I felt him letting me know he was ready to pass. He’d worked through so much. It wasn’t like a giving up, I felt it more like, “I’ve run this course and now I’m ready to leave this body. The lessons have been earned and lived and now it’s time to leave this body.”

Despite the whole herd showing me, yes, this is THAT moment, the hour leading to Cedar’s death was fraught with questioning, indecision, tears, confusion, crazy mind … A LOT. The Ego was rearing up and driving thoughts, thoughts born from fear. Thankfully, by some grace, I was able to help them find their way to the back of the bus so I could be present with Cedar, for him.

In that presence the clarity of his being, his way of holding that moment, shone through. It came to the forefront and was unmistakable in its feeling of heart, calm, peace and pure love.

We can’t have an awareness of the beauty of the world without also having an awareness of her wounds. We see the old growth forest and we also see the clear cut. We see the beautiful mountain, and we see it torn open for extraction. One of the things I continue to learn about and need to learn more about is the transformation of love to grief to an even stronger love. And the interplay of love and grief that we feel for the world. How to harness the power of those related impulses.

~ ROBIN WALL KIMMEMER

Opening to nature, to the flow of life, asks us to ride the waves of these impulses … love and grief. I’ve never felt this so strongly as I have since moving to the farm and living close to nature every day.

Our culture has taught us to dominate nature, to see ourselves as separate from it. Responsible for it. Smarter than it. Something in us knows the anxiety and inner struggles this way of seeing brings.

What would it take to let go of the need to try and control life and instead live in the flow with it, and all its sorrow and joy?

Life is lived through the body .. and so, therefore, is love and grief. We feel it. They happen through us, not to us. Two sides of the same coin. We do not grieve for what we do not love. 

Living with nature is coming back to life. Coming back to an expansive love of the body, all bodies. The river, the lake, the ocean, the mountains and valleys and fields and forests. The seasons and the daily rhythm of life.

At the moment of Cedar’s death I was holding his head, my face inches from his, my hands caressing his muzzle, my breath feeling his breath slow and stop. This was Life asking me to be fully present with Death. One moment asking me to be fully who I really am, with a beloved.

It’s an invitation that can stay with you a lifetime. And, can change your life in profoundly important ways, if you’re willing.

Oh it’s entirely heart breaking and what I would call, properly sorrowed. Something is ending. A life lived in that body, on this earth, at this time, with us .. that life is ending. His breath stopped and Cedar, as I’d known him, was complete. And there is sorrow in that. Sorrow that hangs around, as it should, and catches you at the oddest times for ages after.

He is dead and I am still here. Here to see and remember all the things we shared.

At the very same moment, the very same moment, I felt a joy and expansiveness that is so sweet I cannot do it justice. It’s like trying to describe God, or Spirit or an incredible sunset or kiss. “Trying” is really reducing it.  

In that moment, Death and Life were asking me to hold a paradox. The interplay of joy and sorrow, or as Robin Wall Kimmemer put it, love and grief.

In my grief for Cedar’s death, my love for him has grown exponentially. I feel him present and with me everywhere in ways I didn’t when he was in his body, and, I miss his whinny and the toss of his gorgeous, long mane and the soft warmth of his breath on my face. In the middle of this oscillation is a deeper form of wakefulness. A deeper presence with life and all its mysteries, invisible and visible.

Grief is experienced so many ways by all of us. There are so many variations in how we come to the death – of a loved one, of a job, a relationship, or even a way of seeing the world. May we all learn the wisdom of death and the gifts of grief for making love stronger. May we learn these well and true and with each other, clear eyed and brave hearted.

Christina Turner