Everything ends. Some endings are welcome, and some break your heart. When this happens, time stands still. Nothing exists beyond the travesty, the tragedy. You’re stuck in the awful present of it. The ending is all there is.
I was in Pennsylvania and New York last week. In beautiful Valley Forge, I attended a funeral. And in New York, where I visited my daughter, I was surrounded by people in another kind of grief. You all know what I’m talking about. And I was in the immediacy of all of it. We were all in the shocking, stunning aftermaths of endings, temporarily hidden from the future by the curtain of…finality.
And still. One could not entirely ignore the beauty of autumn, because it was everywhere. Color was still in the trees, the leaves rustled underfoot, and the sky…oh, the sky…was so very, very blue. I’ve always hated November. For me, it has always signaled the end of warmth and sunlight. I do not thrive in winter, or in dark days. But those days in Valley Forge and New York were summer-like, warm and sunshiny, as if Nature was intent on defying the inevitable. It was the end of autumn, but oh, so beautiful–like the life of the dear soul who passed away, like the era of dignity, hope, and promise that will soon be but a memory in our country. We grieved in the face of beauty. We could not ignore one and we could not ignore the other, because unarguably, they were both present. I believe that in this duality is the love of a Benevolent Force that would not leave us in an end without a trace of beauty, and without a beginning.
What I have observed in my relatively long life is that an end that breaks our hearts or takes everything from us, is the one thing that, above all others, has the power to awaken us to a new, heightened sense of the goodness of life, to a sunlight of the spirit. To a recognition of Spirit within us and around us. I have seen it happen many, many times. It has happened to me, more than once. The death of my son was the beginning of my spiritual life. As it was his. The death of my husband deepened that spiritual life, as did the deaths of my parents. The nearness of my own death gave me the health of body and spirit I have in such abundance today. These were my endings and my beginnings. Never was there one without the other.
I went to a funeral. But what I saw there was love. My friend, as I did seven years ago, honored and celebrated with family and friends the beautiful life of the husband who loved her. I hugged and was hugged by dear friends I had not seen for a long time. I heard music of incomparable beauty, sung in Japanese. And outside was the golden autumn. In the next days, I spent hours talking to my daughter as we tried to come to grips with what was ending in our country. Every friend of hers we met on the street stopped for an embrace. We sat in a sunlit café and talked with more friends, all of us processing our grief, our end. Outside was the golden autumn. And inside our hearts and minds, a space began to grow, making room for another beginning.