Wednesday, October 26, 2005

It was Joseph Campbell and James Taylor ...

...who comforted me this week when my mom died after
a lengthy illness. She was about to turn 77 on October 25. Instead, Mom
was buried on the same day that she was born. Her passing was not a surprise
as family and friends watched her condition progressively worsen over a few
years. The emergency trips to the hospital were getting more frequent and the
time between the need for such trips grew shorter and shorter. A dramatic and
sudden change in both her appearance and demeanor signaled the serious nature
of her condition. Keenly aware of the circumstances, I visited her often, while
she was still alert, aware, and concious and I let her know that I loved her,
that she was a great mother. I thanked her for all that she had done for me, all
that she had given, and put up with, throughout the years.
... while no one can ever be prepared for such an event or fill the void that this sort
of loss creates, I found comfort in a James Taylor song, "Enough to be on your way",
off the Hourglass album. In this song, "sweet baby James" sings about losing
both of his parents and a brother within a year. All is addressed with the sensitivity,
the pureness of heart, and beautiful poetry that is James Taylor's god given gift.
On the night of the viewing,as we prepared to leave the funeral home, I pushed my
Dad's wheelchair up to the casket, said a silent prayer, and softly sang the last line
from the song " long old gal." Those few words were perfect for both my dad
and I.
...Joseph Campbell helped me get through the "ceremony" part of all this. In his
books and lectures, Campbell dealt with the necessity of ceremonies in all cultures
and societies to commemorate such milestones in life. Specifically, he spoke about
funerals and their role and importance for the family of the deceased. Mom's faith in
and committment to the Lutheran church and her Finnish heritage was lifelong and strong.
I had drifted away from the church long ago, developing my own concepts of religion, faith,
and spirituality. Understanding things from a broader view allowed me to accept the
Lutheran funerary traditions again and to deal with my own grief. I watched as the
"Ladies of Kaleva", my mom's lifelong friends and sorority sisters, performed their
traditional funeral ceremony to say goodbye to their friend and sister. Each placed a
fresh sprig of flat leaf cedar in the floral arrangements. Just prior to that, I had gone
outside to burn a small sprig of cedar and to "smudge" myself as I was taught my dear
Navajo friend, Wayne Wilson. I had never witnessed the "Kaleva" ceremony, but inside
my head, as I was feeling stressed and sad, I heard Wayne's voice tell me "Just keep
burning that cedar!" the funeral ended and the casket was loaded into the hearse, I held my father's
hand. We squeezed tight and felt a connection, both physically and spirtitually, that
neither time, distance, or death will ever be able to break. We will all see each other
and be together again.

So long old gal....