You already know everything I am about to say (But reminders are always good):
Our loved ones gift us when they die.
My gentle, matter-of-fact bird-friend Snow Lion passed away in December. It was –for me–a traumatic parting. I knew she was ready to go—after 9 years of life, she was fed up with her creaky, painful body. I imagined her passing quietly in my presence. But—surprise!–she died while I was out of the house. I found her soft, warm body on the kitchen floor. She had been fleeing the roofers working next door. If only I had been home with her! If only I had kept her in the cage that day, she might not have died. Snow Lion vehemently preferred autonomy over safety. Still, I was paralyzed with guilt.
Cradling her precious body in my hands, I tried to feel her presence. I wanted to comfort her and help her on her journey, but I was too furious at myself for allowing her to die frightened and alone. I contracted with self-punishing guilt. My perceptions became narrow, two-dimensional. It was a long, terrible moment in a beautiful relationship. I called some friends, begging them to help me get out of my self-obsessed state so that I could be still and help Snow Lion on her way. It took many, many kind, wise words before I could loosen my violent grip on myself even slightly. It took many, many tears before I could look at her body and see the expression in her eyes and on her face: surprised joy.
And so grieving began.
Now it is April. I miss her terribly, but my amazing friend left me a message.
It was the first night of a weeklong meditation retreat in March. As I sank gratefully into the silence of sitting meditation, there was Snow Lion’s message, waiting for me. Like a voicemail, or a video. She showed me her death.
She was flying. Non-stop Snow Lion: afraid, purposeful, ferocious. Enormously curious. (She was like that in life, brave, always flying directly toward–and yelling at–whatever she was afraid of.)
As she flew, the components/elements that made up Snow Lion came apart with enormous force, softly, slowly exploding 360 degrees into everything, dissolving thoroughly into the ALL.
I felt Snow Lion liberating from her form, utterly amazed and joyful—her dissolution a freedom beyond all exploring, all flying. And she wanted me to see; she wanted me to know, she wanted me to share it with her. I felt her great love sweeping me with her, deliberately carrying me into her new adventure. Tears streamed down my face; I was so grateful for her emphatic message.
Quiet had finally enabled me to perceive what I could not the day she died.
And there was more.
As her form liberated, she liberated all the love I had focused on her, localized into her being:
Days, months and years of mundane, practical love (at least 2000 feedings, cage-cleanings, and bedtime songs; all our familiar games, the quiet companionship, the shared grief when our beloved Tigger died) were liberated with her. Her joyous exhalation took my heart with her in all directions, into the ALL.
Our love dissolved and expanded, becoming vast, unbounded.
My heart is forever changed.
When I tune into Snow Lion’s parting message, I can feel the space she flew into, the space she dissolved into, the Space she became.
Ordinary consciousness is dualistic. There is always a subject (me), and an object (you, the table, etc.). While I was receiving Snow Lion’s message, I stopped objectifying the love that “I” had for “her.” There was just Love. The love that Snow Lion and I created loosened that ordinary, subject-object consciousness in me, a little.
It takes enormous force to get a glimpse like that. Enormous love. Is such great love possible between a small parakeet and a human?
What is love?
I have no idea, but I know it is a greater mystery than I ever imagined.
What do we do when we love?
What did Snow Lion do, what did I do, what did we create by loving each other? What did Snow Lion do by loving me, and then dying?
Somehow she showed me that we are infinite, fractal love, opening out and out and out…..
What is love, liberated? Great love, liberated. Love expanding infinitely throughout space and time?
And what is grief?
I do not really know, but grief makes space and is Space.
It is difficult to surrender to the space of grief, the silence of grief. The silence and space that is the absence of your beloved. That terrible silence of no words, no songs filling the air.
But sometimes we can sink into this space and silence that the beloved has blessed us with. Sometimes we become quiet. Sometimes we can receive our beloved’s last gift to us, their final act of love.
There is a secret teaching hidden in the dissolution of a soft, bright, feathered body.
Or a furry body, with paws, cooling, melting into everything.
Or a human body. The body of your beloved, dissolving into space.
When someone we love dies, or after any significant loss, we feel powerful and complex emotions. They are precious. We need to feel all of them. A certain number of tears must be cried before we are ready for what is next. I don’t know how many, but sooner or later, every single one of these tears must come out.
Sometimes you must fall to your knees and wail. Sometimes you must rage at the beloved for leaving, rage at Life for taking them away. Feeling and expressing all this is the essential, wrenching, soul-building work of love.
Is there a death you still need to mourn? A divorce? Has your best friend moved away? Can you let yourself feel all the love and longing you poured into your beloved? Can you feel the gap they have left behind? It is okay to be afraid. It is disorienting to, out of habit, direct your love toward someone who is gone. Unsettling questions arise: “Who am I if you are gone?” “How can I exist without you?”
Are you mourning a lost part of yourself? An ill-fitting identity, an old, familiar way of life? Can you let yourself say goodbye, fully? Honor the old you, as fully as you can. Let it die. Let it take as long as it needs to take? And when you are ready, can you be with the space that remains? Let that space be space? It may be painful (or joyful). But it will not kill you.
We are more than our emotions and our habits. We are more than bodies, more than who we love. We are Mysteries. Once grief or guilt, anger or fear has been honored and expressed, there are messages and “aha”s waiting for us. There is love, infinite, inexpressible love. Whatever that is…
Would you like to make a Somatic and Intuitive Coaching appointment with Dr. Vanissar Tarakali? You can email her at: email@example.com or check out her website: www.vanissarsomatics.com
wow. indeed, thank you.
Thank you for sharing this deep experience and the wide lessons learned. I have been blessed to be present at the passing of two beloved beings close to me – my mother some years ago and my dog Chaska a month ago. With my mother, it was all so big – I was less mindful than with Chaska, and it is easier to share about Chaska as a result.
One particular memory stirred by Snow Lion’s parting message: after we buried Chaska in our garden, we chanted “Akaal” together for a while. The expansion of her presence into the garden, the sky, the earth and of course continuing in our hearts was palpable and full of joy in the middle of grief.
Thank you Chaska, and Mish.