The rivers are rough right now; the seas are high. The dams have broken, and all the lakes have emptied. Over the past few weeks, I’ve experienced profound connection coupled with astounding rootedness punctuated by loss–the deaths of Beloveds–precipitating violent heavings of emotions, like so much jetsam arising from the depths of the oceans. I return again and again to the questions: How does grief fit into my everyday life? How can I feel this pain without becoming lost in it forever? Will it ever hurt less and, if not, how will I learn to bear this?
I am ceremonially processing up the leaf-capped dirt path to the mikvah with the other Priestesses, quietly crushing the crisp leaves with my bare feet, the earthy scent of their death rising up and surrounding me with the comfort of memories and nostalgia. We are all, each of us, dressed in white. The sun is setting and the ethereal light of darkness is beginning to take power.
Poised between the Seen and the Unseen, we sing, removing Sacreds from our bodies like Inanna must in Her underworld journey: rings, earrings, bracelets, crowns, clothing. I place my small pile reverently on the flat grey stone. Our facilitating Priestesses toss flowers from the harvest garden into the holy pool, handful by handful by handful, until the surface glows with pinks and reds and oranges and yellows and greens. The stream continually propels the petals over the edge, a waterfall of loving color. One by one we immerse ourselves in these warm, bubbling, holy waters, physically bringing about our rebirth. I emerge from this liquid warmth filled with a new joy.
It’s now past time to leave for the airport. Stretched out on the floor of our Temple with my Beloved Familiar, I’m holding back tears, seeking my courage. He curls in upon himself on a red plaid fleece blanket, his chin resting on his favorite catnip toy. As I stroke his once-lustrous black fur, I sing to him his special song for the last time in our shared life. I speak aloud all of the names he’s earned over the fifteen years he’s spent in my heart and home. Haltingly, I tell him that I know it’s his time and that it’s okay to go, that I love him more than anything, and that I always will. I give him one final kiss and roll my suitcases out to the car. I can’t see through my tears.
I’m in my mother’s home in Florida. On the lanai, the damp, sticky air seems made of sweat. Thunder distantly begins to flirt and boom, slowly announcing the storm’s impending presence. The sky dims to darkness as the thunder steadily inches closer. Lightning flares below near the marina and the sky momentarily brightens to reveal the towering clouds. Rain streams down the windows, trickles through the one that’s only a screen, its glass in disrepair from the last hurricane; the wind picks up, decisively cooling and freshening the air. White, red, and green bulbs from the boats below blink and bob through the shadows, defining the contours of the land around us. I breathe it all in deeply.
We’re in a witchy store and my sister and I are looking through the magickal sprays, searching out one for my young niece who has noticed ghost-like activity in her bedroom at night. We spritz and inhale until we find the right one, then add an obsidian to our basket for her to keep on her nightstand. My phone vibrates in my purse and I dig through the compartments to find it—my husband is writing to tell me that Benito has passed. My Beloved Familiar has left this earthplane without my physical presence, albeit snuggled by his dad in his favorite place on the bed, departing under his own power. For a moment I seem to float, weightless, before the breath rushes back into my body and I strive not to faint.
I relax in my dad’s big brown easy chair. It’s strange not having him here and yet, at the same time, not. He was ill for so long, in and out of hospitals, rehabs, and finally, at hospice. “It’s a blessing,” we say, “He’s free of pain now. He never wanted to live that way.” His dogs are cuddled up with me, one on my lap, one pressed against my thigh. I stroke their fur, doing my best to offer them equal attention. Mom has made a sweet little shrine for dad with pictures of him in earlier, healthier years, a scented candle and the urn containing his ashes at the center. There’s a surreality—a sense of liminality—all around me now, wherever I go. I am genuinely navigating between the worlds in ways I never have before.
It’s after 10 p.m. and the sky is black, sprinkled with sparkling stars. I should make my way back to mom’s as she is most likely worrying about me walking out alone at night in an unfamiliar place. Yet, the tears are pouring down my face again and I don’t want to approach her like this. Will there ever again be a day without sudden, unexpected tears?
The Moon is a waxing, golden crescent above the Gulf, and I open my heart to it as much as I can, searching, praying, hoping for an answer, for comfort, for connection…something, anything to anchor me within this possibly never-ending darkness. Suddenly, I feel Hekate’s presence. Just as suddenly, I am Hekate, Her black cloak streaming out behind me as I traverse this liminal space, my animal Guide on one side, Benito on the other.
Here, in this now, the most powerful message comes through: My grief is an Offering to the body of the Mother. Shaking and uncertain, awed, I abruptly stop walking the circuitous path and speak it aloud: My grief is an Offering to the body of the Mother. I raise my arms up in supplication. My grief is an Offering to the body of the Mother.
And this—finally—is the comfort I’ve been unknowingly pursing. In my blood and bones, I know it, I recognize it, and it is Truth: My grief is an Offering to the body of the Mother.
In this moment, I realize that I can choose to make my grief, my tears, my anguish an act of devotion. When I choose to be brave enough to surrender to the reality of my emotions, no matter how terrifying, when I allow myself to go there, to truly feel this deep, dark, seemingly unending pain, I am expressing my true essence, my realness, my humanity, my Truth.
And so I offer these grief-filled tears, a succulent prize that comes only of intense love and care, as a gift. And so I grieve as an act of reverent and mindful service to all that is, was, and will be. May my pain be a salve of healing and beauty for the world.
1: Mikvah by Priestess Sabrina Moon
2: Benito Soriano Chavez Lantern by Yours Truly
3: Florida Marina by Yours Truly