Monday, December 29, 2008

There's Always Enough Sorrow To Go Around

Big Hug
by Laura

G said, “Come on, I want to show you a surprise.” It was the view from the top of the platform of the Ark—8 feet up in the pasture overlooking the river and the mountains across the river. It is the floor of the Ark itself and I had not yet been up there to see this view. I had just completed my initial wow response to the view when I looked down at the side of the house by the steps leading down from the road. There, looking up at us, stood a friend of ours who we’ve known for at least 15 years, but who had moved several years ago to Silver City. We see Theresa every so often when she comes to Cruces to see her Mama who is in a nursing home here. The last time we had seen her was late last winter.

Our history with Theresa is fun—she was an eager and enthusiastic participant in our full-moon drumming/dancing ceremonies that we had every month in our pasture. Theresa was almost always up for anything involving dancing, drumming, chanting, meditating or prayer work. She is probably the best dancer I have ever seen other than maybe professionals. Any and every kind of dance but especially free form ecstatic dance which she “led” every Saturday at a local church for years. We have sorely missed her dancing spirit when she moved.

Theresa is a magical person—living outside the mainstream boundaries and rules and benefits. She has always had a vision of creating a healing center of some sort. At one time I figured out that she IS the healing center.

Anyway there she was and G invited her to climb the ladder up to our Ark which she unhesitatingly did. We told a brief explanation of what this weird structure was that we were now standing on. Then she said her Mama had died three days before and she had just found out and had come to see about things. It all happened without much thought for the next hour. G opened his arms and Theresa moved into them and I folded myself around her back with my arms around both of them and my hands covering hers on G’s back. For some time we felt her wracking grief and loss rising from her groin and solar plexus and shaking her up through her chest, throat and mouth. The reverberations found their match-mates in my body from the death of my own dear mother almost 6 years previous to the day. The reverberations also found like company in G’s body from the death of his precious mother 3 years previous. We stood like orphan monkeys feeling the agony of abandonment by the cells we were originally more intimate with than we could understand. It is to be felt—the death of mother, and feel it we three did.

At one point we moved into a triangle hug, Theresa and I resting our heads against G’s shoulders and chest and his head dropped down on the top of ours. I could feel all 6 of our legs holding us all up and our bodies so close we shared one grief, one universal loss. We, as a unit became as a divining rod on the top of the platform. The electric ecstatic dove of the peaceful holy spirit entered our bodies as our weeping slowed. We began to sigh and moan and it became chanting of ancient sounds, guttural and piercing expressions from the life of our cells. All three voices blending to a universal sound of the inside of a sea shell or a womb. We did not know what was on the “other side” of the shell/womb, but we were really aware of “something” being there. Perhaps like sensing our mothers “there” when we were in the womb. We were rocked and rocking in the arms of The Mother.

Curiously, we know how long this all took before we had to release each other from the exhaustion of tears and cramped overextended muscles. My cell phone alarm is set to play Amadeus the Final Curtain every day at noon and it will automatically snooze itself for 5 minutes for an entire hour unless I shut it off. We could all hear it, like the heavenly hosts, but I couldn’t reach it in my pants pocket without breaking the energy flow of our lightening rod hug. So it finally turned itself off at 1:00, just when we first considered easing off on hugging and beginning to communicate verbally.

Theresa ended up sharing a meal with us and crashing on our couch for the night. I hope Theresa will not mind my telling this story. She is such a dear friend and her story of her and her Mama is a deeply moving one. I hope one day she will share her profound insights with others. G and I feel richly blessed to know Theresa.


Our Grief Event
by Gordon

I’ve never known a person to say, “I haven’t experienced enough sorrow; please give me more.” Enough is always plenty. I’ve experienced my share of sorrow, but it has always seemed to me that Theresa has received a double helping. She’s a direct descendant of the 1915 Armenian Genocide, in which over a million Armenians were slaughtered, and this has set a powerful tone for her life.

Theresa is the only world-class dancer I know personally besides Laura. She used to offer ecstatic dancing (based on Gabrielle Roth’s teaching) once a week in Las Cruces, and Laura and I were her most faithful participants. We do like to dance. In ecstatic dancing you move as you are inwardly led, so there are no wrong moves. Unlimited spontaneity as always appealed to me, so I always enjoyed my dancing sessions with Laura and Theresa.

Profound sorrow and dancing ecstasy are a powerful combination, like baking soda and vinegar, or gasoline and fire. At any rate I have always had an interesting relationship with Theresa to say the least.

We shared a profound grief event on Friday, Dec. 19. I had just invited Laura onto the just-built floor of our new Ark so that she could experience the view from eight feet off the ground, when we heard somebody calling to us from the bottom of the steps about twenty feet away. Turns out it was Theresa, whom we hadn’t seen for the better part of a year.

“Come on up!” I invited, so she climbed the ladder and joined us on the Ark. I explained the function of the Ark to her, and we admired the view, and then she got to her big news: her mother had just died. This was not unexpected: her mother had been languishing in a nursing home for several years, and there was only one possible outcome.

Turns out Mama (accent on the second syllable) had died on Tuesday, Dec. 16, which was Laura and my 20th wedding anniversary. This seemed like quite a coincidence, but then again, isn’t everything, come to think about it? Laura and I made the usual verbal expressions of sympathy, and I mentioned the similarity of our two mothers spending several years in nursing homes before they died. Sometimes death takes too long, or so it seemed to me in my mother’s case. When it finally happens, “It’s a mixture of grief and relief,” I said.

That opened the floodgates. Theresa started crying, so I started hugging her. Laura started hugging her from behind, since I already occupied the front side.

It has always seemed to me, dealing with the mainstream American culture I grew up in, that people often don’t know how to just shut up and let things be. It seems like, when grief is concerned, people sometimes try to get the crying over with as soon as possible, talking all the while. In much the same way, Americans tend to talk while praying, presuming to tell God what to do, when in fact silence is a more appropriate approach.

Since I already knew all this, I just held Theresa and let the crying happen. There’s nothing to say; the value of the crying is the crying itself. That’s how humans grieve: we cry. If we cry enough, eventually we don’t have to cry anymore. So let’s get started right now.

I remember standing front-to-front, ear-to-ear, with my left arm around her and my right hand cupping the back of her head, trying to enfold her as much as possible, while Laura stood behind Theresa with her arms wrapped around us both. I think ecstatic dancing is great practice in going all-out, because Theresa is one powerful crier. She blasted electric incandescent tidal waves of grief right through me. I heard Laura crying. I didn’t feel like I was crying, but I noticed tears streaming down my cheeks. Upon thinking about it later, I concluded that I wasn’t “crying” in the usual sense (from energy coming from within), but “being cried” by Theresa’s energy flowing through me. Surely this is what empathy is all about. I was an open channel for Theresa’s crying energy, being pressed right up against her and all, so it was only natural that her crying energy would make me cry as it passed through me.

We stood like this for perhaps 20 minutes, until Theresa’s crying subsided and Laura moved around so that we were standing in a triangle, arms around each other, facing each other, heads pressed together. Nobody wanted to stop. We were sharing a deep communion.

All this started at noon, when Laura’s cell phone timer is set to play music (one of her “spiritual reminders”), and it activated automatically every five minutes because she couldn’t get to it in her pocket to turn it off. So every five minutes we had a little burst of “angel music.”

We were quite thoroughly bonded by this time, any internal resistance having been thoroughly blasted by the powerful surge of crying energy we had all experienced. We shared an extended interval of great tenderness. We talked from time to time; I remember us talking about being triplets sharing the same womb, which seemed like a delightfully accurate concept. Then Theresa started OMing so we OMed along with her... sometimes in harmony, sometimes not. This went on for quite a while. But we spent most of the time just being silent together, sharing the closeness.

Eventually our muscles started to complain about standing in one position for so long, but we didn’t want to stop. But like all things, the moment passed in due time. Laura was finally able to turn off the cell phone alarm, and it turned out that our grief event had lasted for over an hour. Then we stretched, climbed down the ladder, and entered our next moment.


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