Grief and Joy...
We think of them as opposites. But as such, they are also closer together than we might initially think.
Recently we lost someone in the close family. Many of us had to travel to come together for his funeral. From the day of his passing to the funeral, 2-3 weeks went by.
From the moment I heard the news, all my instincts led me to seek the contact of various family members. We were seeking each other out. We discussed travel plans, obstacles, needs and any thoughts that could only be shared with those that understood. Many of us don't speak on a regular basis because of various circumstances. Still there was a bond stronger than anything that drew us all together.
In the weeks leading up to the traveling dates, I found myself excited and glad for the trip and the opportunity to see many of my family. I then felt guilt and wondered if this joy was appropriate given the circumstances. I was planning my funeral outfit. When I was sharing my outfit ideas with my sister and mother, each one of them (including myself) thought about how strange and inappropriate this was. How could I be concerned with what I will be wearing when I should be profoundly grieving our loss?
Reflecting on my deepest impulses, and by now being practiced in this art, I realised that there was nothing inappropriate about my feelings and actions. I was grieving. I was in need for the closeness of my family and looking forward to seeing them. Putting thought into my outfit was just another way of preparing for the event and honouring the deceased. I decided I was ok with that. I was preparing whole heartedly for the upcoming farewell.
As we gathered in the days leading up to the funeral I noticed that my senses were perceiving each family member quite differently. We all know that family can be difficult. Each family member has a role that we ascribe to them, we have fights with our siblings, roll our eyes on an overbearing aunt and feel hurt by the criticism of a judgmental uncle. All that was pushed into the shadow by light. They were the same people but they were somehow surrounded by glowing light. It sounds strange but I was experiencing them all as illuminated beings, with huge hearts and beautiful souls. The circumstances brought out the universal love in my heart. I had read about it in various books on yogic and buddhist philosophy, but I am not sure I have ever experienced it quite like I did when grief struck.
When we all got together at last it was a joyous occasion. One that was accompanied by grief. Death brought life so much closer. Sadness made happiness multiply. And as I write these words, I remember those that have left us, while immense gratitude rushes through my body releasing another flood of tears.