It is one of the mysteries of our nature that a man, all unprepared, can receive a thunder-stroke like that and live. Mark Twain on the death of his second daughter.
A recent share by one of the dads on the Helping Parents Heal FB page caught my eye.
In the Lakota/Sioux tradition, a person who is grieving is considered most waken, most holy.
There’s a sense that when someone is struck by the sudden lightning of loss, he or she stands on the threshold of the spirit world. The prayers of those who grieve are considered especially strong, and it is proper to ask them for their help.
You might recall what it’s like to be with someone who has grieved deeply. The person has no layer of protection, nothing left to defend. The mystery is looking out through that person’s eyes.
For the time being, he or she has accepted the reality of loss and has stopped clinging to the past or grasping at the future. In the groundless openness of sorrow, there is a wholeness of presence and a deep natural wisdom.
― Tara Brach
Tara Brach is a Doctor of Clinical Psychology and a Buddhist. The quote is from her book, True Refuge: Finding Peace and Freedom in Your Own Awakened Heart, which I have not yet read. Here’s a link to her website. TARA BRACH
This quote resonated with me and a lot of other dads.
I sent it to my brother, Roshi Genro Gauntt, who has spent several years working with the Lakota Tribe in South Dakota.
Although this perspective might be true, I’ve never run across it or heard of it in the Lakota tradition. Most appeals to the divine I’ve done directly through Spirit Helpers or directly to grandfather – Tunkashila.
Nonetheless, Dr. Brach succinctly articulated some thoughts and feelings I’ve been grappling with for quite some time. In February of 2010, I wrote a letter to Chaplain Joe Davis. He was at ground zero with us at the San Diego County Medical Examiner’s Office during those first, surreal, hours after Jimmy was accidentally struck and killed by a car in August of 2008. It was a thank-you letter. I’ll be getting into this more deeply in a follow-up post. But for now, here is an excerpt from the letter that shines some light on where we were, 18 months in, after beingstruck by the sudden lightening of loss.
Suffering and grief and healing are hard. It’s work. You must do the work. We deeply miss our son every day, and many tears continue to fall.
Our family was thrust into that space in the universe where, yes, it is dark, foreboding, frightening, and overflowing with pain, and no parent ever would or should wander or explore it ‘just for the hell of it.’ We have walked, often crawled, there with our daughter and her wonderful husband.
We have not run from it, nor tried to hide from it, and we hold each other there; and we believe something has revealed itself to us. This space is also exceptionally vibrant and alive and full of love, and full of wonderful things and feelings, too.
It is a place where one can heal and connect with one’s self (put pieces back together) and connect and reconnect with family, loved ones, friends and guides, both here and who have passed on.
It is not a place to fear; rather it can be both embraced and embracing, if you go in with an open heart and mind.
We are continuing to do the work and heal, and live our lives in the present, as best as we can.
We thank you every day for showing us and putting us on that path in those early hours. For me, I think of it as a portal; a window that opened. David Lindsay-Abaire would call it a rabbit hole. And we dove in. And things have happened.
I wrote this in my journal one year later as I was thinking about starting our website Write Me Something Beautiful and musing ‘What is it about?’
This is of course a painful and ugly journey through the very deep troughs of loss, grief and suffering. But, for some unknown reason, we’ve been given some markers, messages and carrots that continually lift us above the abyss that would surely love to embrace us.
This is a journal of running as hard as I can from that gravity pull of my black hole for more than 40 years beginning with my father’s suicide.
This is a story of being right at the edge of here and there, for more than a moment. The edge where you get a glimpse, a fraction-of-an-instant look, at something you are not meant to see, unless there’s a good reason. Like to save one’s sanity- our family’s and others’—perhaps.
This isn’t a near death experience of walking into the light for few seconds. It’s a life story of living with tragic, life-altering, death for a long, long time until, when what should be the final punch is thrown—the one that should take you forever down—the light pours in.
This light has hung around for more than two and a half years. And it seems to only get brighter as we continue further into our own rabbit hole—or worm hole—so long as we explore it with others.
That’s the critically important piece to all of this—experiencing it and sharing it with others.
Doing so seems to release more energy and take on a life of its own.
These are stories of how I’m no longer running by myself anymore. I now realize there are so many here and over there who are right at our sides—shaking their heads, laughing, crying, releasing, relenting, cracking open and chasing down their own paths of connection and reconnection.
This is a place of doing the work—of going way beyond your comfort zone—of seeking and walking with those who have been hit hard, like us—of working with mediums and shamans and priests and authors and philosophers of extraordinary abilities—of doing things you never thought you could or would ever do.
Because when you get to the edge, and you realize and acknowledge, ‘What the heck do I possibly have left to be afraid of?,
That’s where the goosebumps are.
That’s the place you can honestly say to yourself ‘Whoah!’ and ‘Wow.’
For me, that’s where grief dwells.
This is dedicated in loving memory of David Cline on his 3rd Angel Date December 2, 2016.