April 25, 2019
Today is the first anniversary of Michael’s death. I awakened earlier than I wanted, but I’ve become used to this in the past three years of his dying and death. I find a dense fog outside my window in this near dawn light and I wonder if it will rain, for I intend to do a ritual outside in his honor.
It was Michael’s birthday five days ago, and now it is his death day. I guess that it’s good that these events are coming so close together. I’ve taken most of the week off so that I can move into the deeper psychological and spiritual work of this time.
On his birthday, I got a small pastry, put a candle in it, picked some daffodils, pulled a tarot card, and sang Happy Birthday. I started crying in the middle of the song because it felt so empty to be singing to the remnants of what remains of his earthly life, to be singing into the hollowness of life without him.
As I was shuffling the deck of 78 tarot cards, I kept asking for one card, just one, that would tell me what I need to know about Michael. I was thinking that maybe The Star card would show up, for he has communicated with me and others through the stars. But the card that came was Death. I almost laughed when it turned over, and I almost cried. Of course! He is dead and my task is to accept this.
This made me realize that there’s a new level of acceptance that is attempting to come in, that needs to come in. And it’s all about letting go of the various ways in which I’ve tried to keep Michael alive. I need to finally accept that no amount of crying, or praying, or wishing, or remembering, or meditating, or fantasizing, or writing, in short — nothing, will bring Michael back to me. I need to understand this fully and unequivocally. For I believe that this is the level of acceptance that will begin to bring relief to this endless grief.
I have to confess that I’ve been playing Ghost with Michael for this past year. He would be smiling about my “playing ghost” with him for we had joked about it as he was dying, and he vowed he would play it with me.
You may remember the 1990 movie starring Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore in which Patrick’s character is killed and then comes back as a ghost to protect his lover, Demi. The scene that stands out in my mind is the one in which Demi is creating a clay pot and Patrick’s ghostly form sits behind her, holding her, while she makes her art.
I’ve been doing my own version of this. I’ve been feeling Michael holding my hand for many months now. I ask for him to hold my hand, and I feel a very subtle sense of his hand on mine – warm and comforting. Sometimes I feel him holding my hand even when I haven’t asked. I feel him in my office too, the office I shared with him. And I often feel him when I meditate. I don’t know if it’s really him, but it doesn’t matter. It’s something that’s been happening and I have wanted it to happen.
At this one-year anniversary of his death, I’m realizing that at least for now, I need to let this go. I need to stop playing ghost with him. It keeps him too alive in my mind, and it keeps me from moving forward. And the point, the very necessary and painful point, is that he is dead and gone.
But it’s hard to let go of our loved ones, and the efforts toward communication with our dead feel important. It seems natural that we would strive to continue our connection to them. The bonds of love are so potent and profound, and they weave themselves into our very Being in unknowable and inextricable ways.
So, there is something about fully accepting that Michael is gone and at the same time finding myself at a vibrational level that can occasionally and consciously commune with whatever remains of his spirit in this realm. But this communion needs to change in some indefinable way. I need to accept that no matter how potent the connection may be, I must move on with my life. It is too lonely and too empty to continue to reach back into our life together in this way. It is too sad to sing Happy Birthday to an empty chair. He is gone. And I remain.
And yet, I don’t know how to accept this. Not really. I’ve got the words, the concept, and even the feeling sometimes. But the level of true and complete acceptance of his loss continues to elude me.
Then I realize that I don’t have to know how to accept this, that in fact, I may not be able to know. Like so many things, I can’t figure this out. No amount of time in my head is going to make this clearer or easier. In fact, just the opposite. Once again, it comes down to trusting the very nature of life. To trusting that life will show me exactly what I need to learn. It comes down to being on my knees again, to asking for help and guidance, and to being humble enough to receive it. I have been on my knees so often in these past several years, and yet, here I am again. It seems to be the only place from which I can begin to know the deeper wisdom.
I go out to the garden where Michael’s ashes are buried, and I clear the space around them. The marker stones from last year have been moved by the harsh winter and I am on my knees as I place them once again in a circle. The giant hosta in the center is just beginning to show its spring growth of stalks and leaves. Among the stones are citrine, and hematite, and quartz, and tiger’s eye. There is aventurine and several pieces of lapis, for that is the stone of Medicine Buddha, and Michael had many of them. There is granite and a mysterious translucent green octahedron. There is obsidian and an unknown stone of orange and black. And there is his pocket Buddha. I know I will take these with me wherever I move for the rest of my life. And I will take the small urn of his remaining ashes.
It is so peaceful here today and I’m surprised to find that I am not crying. Instead I am washed in gratitude and love and the fullness of life.
Now I prepare a ritual by creating a sacred circle with the directions and the archangels and the powers they represent. I light a candle that will burn for 24 hours. It is a Yahrzeit candle from the Jewish tradition for remembering those who are gone, and it is lit on the one year anniversary of their passing. My intention is for the deepest honoring possible. And then, finally, it is about letting Michael go, or at least letting him go a little bit more.
For this is the long goodbye. This year of mourning is ending, and though I know my grief doesn’t end now, this is a signpost of some kind. I’ve made it through this terrible ordeal of Michael’s dying and death, and now it’s time to re-enter the flow of life, it’s time to begin to heal.
Even writing these words brings a fresh round of sorrow. But this is the task and I welcome its completion.
I say these words out loud to Michael and to the Universe as I kneel in the garden. “I fully accept that you are dead and gone. I let go of our life together with immense love and gratitude. Thank you, my love. I ask for help in letting go and moving forward into life’s flow. Help me. Please help me to let go of you, as I ask you to let go of me. Goodbye, my love. I will miss you forever in this life.” Now I cry wholeheartedly, every bit of me is committed to this moment, and once again, I water his resting place with my tears. I close the circle in reverence and silence.
I’m hoping that something is shifting. Today, I am trusting the process, the larger Source. It feels a bit like falling, but I’m falling softly, falling gently into the great mystery. And really, it is so soft that it feels like being held. My heart is being held.