This week, I had the opportunity to witness the beauty of transformation at its most fundamental level: I witnessed the death of a beloved pet and attended the memorial for an old friend. How can death possibly be beautiful, you might ask? It was the less-obvious beauty that struck me as I reflected on a somewhat bumpy plane ride home the other night. Allow me to show you what was hidden in the sorrow of the events.
- Tenderness: I watched each member of my immediate family gently comfort our beloved pet as she gently transitioned from this life to the next. We all took turns keeping her company, easing her fear as her body failed, easing each others sorrow as we saw her exhale for the last time. We held each other, cried together, prayed together. Most of all, we respected and made sacred space for the sorrow and unexpected laughter that came from remembering our lives with this cherished animal who graced us with her presence for so long.
- Kinship: There is a beautiful term derived from Celtic spirituality that is called Anam Cara, which translates to “soul friend.” According to John O’Donoghue, the Anam Cara is a friendship that transcends the boundaries of geography and time, resulting in a deep connection that reflects some of the essence of love. As I passed through the recent events, I reflected on the Anam Cara relationships in my life and the sweetness I have experienced because of them.
- Connection: The experience of death of loved ones revealed to me the connection between those of us whose lives are still in the mortal realm and those who have passed on to the next phase of existence. For fleeting moments during my experiences with these deaths, I felt the veil between the planes of existence lift, revealing how connected we are with each other. One of the comments during my friend’s funeral was that she would live as long as we held her in our memory. Upon reflection, I think that statement is true for all beings, no matter when or where they have lived. We are all far more deeply connected than we realize.
- Joy: Yes, joy! It would be difficult for me to overlook the joy I experienced amidst the sorrow. In unexpected places, I found myself enjoying a belly laugh with friends, giggling over a recollection of some shared experience, or chuckling over some small irony or previously unseen detail. In this experience, I learned how close the relationship is between joy and sorrow, how beautiful the passage between life and death can be, and how precious the love of a close friend is.
My friends, beauty, joy, tenderness and connection are all out there for us to experience. It’s all a matter of perspective and openness.