In my weekly phone chat with my 98-year old grandma this morning, we spoke about this and that, and with it being the Day of the Dead here in Canada (in Switzerland where she lives, they celebrate All Saints Day tomorrow), we also spoke of death, of dying, of our shared love for graveyards and for visiting friends and loved ones who have passed the threshold.
I told her about the possibility of keeping a loved one’s body at home for three days after they die – to wash, to embalm, to love and release, recently inspired by a Facebook friend’s incredibly moving account of such an experience. She liked that idea. She is one of those people least afraid of dying in my circle. She has always had a friendly relationship with the end of our physical life and stands firmly in the felt-sense that there is a Beyond in which we continue.
We reminisce shared visits to her husband’s grave in Zurich – my nono. I talk about how her great granddaughter, 5-year old A., used to love wandering through the cemeteries in Switzerland to visit the graves, to ask questions, to lay flowers on the beds of fellow humans we had just met there and then.
She says she would like to sit and visit more with others who have died, to say farewell, as they leave regularly in the home she lives in.
I speak to her of the Day of the Dead celebration here in the valley – how we gather at the community-owned cemetery, candles burning on all the mounds and graves and altars, and a huge fire lit with flames reaching up to the moon. And how we gather in procession, singing ‘dona nobis pacem’ and ‘may the circle be unbroken’. She likes that too, is so open and present to the ways of staying close to the dead, to death.
And so we share across the ocean our moments and reflections on death, on being with death, on dying.
I hang up with gratitude for her alive embodied self as well as for her willing-to-release spirited self. A charming, resilient, joking, tender, wise soul she is.
In this photo she and I are walking in the yard of my childhood, looking for slugs and upon finding them, chucking them into the stream. It sits on my desk. I talk to her about this too, and she laughs, remembering how the slugs still found their way back to the lettuces.
Life. Death. The mystery of their interwoveness continues to mystify me. And: such chats with my grandma fill me with comfort and confidence.
To all you who have passed on from this embodied existence – all you friends, loved ones and inspiring ones I knew of but never met – you make what lies beyond a friendlier place, as you track on ahead. Blessings upon your onward journeys. I salute you today especially.