Kiss the Joy

IMG_1787“He who binds to himself a Joy,

Does the winged life destroy;

He who kisses the Joy as it flies,

Lives in Eternity’s sunrise.

William Blake

November is a weighty month for me, full of gravity, a deep cold and marble like stillness of spirit. Death is in the air, in my lungs and before my eyes. I try to blot out the sadness by keeping busy and going numb, but this is a silliness of the silliest kind.

What feels right in my soul is to say how much my family meant to me and still means to me. How I can still burst into tears at the passing thought of an everyday kindness afforded to me by my gentle father and fragile mother. How I am still trying to soften the anger at my sister so it will give way to the underlying love we shared as sisters. The heart takes its time, it takes its own good time.

I have been reading The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying again, ironically, finding words to live by. Being mindful of my own mortality, not in a morbid way, but as a way to bring my “monkey mind” back to center and keep in front of my eyes the things that matter. From today’s reading:

“Do I remember at every moment that I am dying, and everyone and everything else is, and so treat all beings at all times with compassion?”

When dad was too weak to move, having visions, sips of water and sucking the juice from a small chunk of watermelon, we would discourse over spiritual matters. In our spare time. All dad had was spare time. His body slowly let go and quieted down, desires at the bare minimum, and his heart slowly let go of any regrets. He was so rich in those final months and seemed more and more content to just be with his thoughts, and more and more delighted to simply be with those who chose to be with him: his family, neighbors and the dear hospice team who visited him regularly.

What do you think happens after you die, dad?

Nothing, he replied, nonplussed.

How does that make you feel?

That every moment matters.

I swore I would keep the wisdom of the things I heard and saw sitting by the deathbeds of my mom, my dad, my sister. It can be tough. Especially when my dining room table looks like this: booksf

Chasing that degree, that diploma, that license, so that I can do this…sperm…express myself with coffee beans, feathers and beads alongside others who are processing grief, death, loss, finding healing and strength in the images that emerge from within.

Dad, is it worth it? I have to say that yes, it is. But only if I remember to make the moments count by stopping to eat ice cream with my daughter, actually make eye contact with my teenage son, or pick up the phone to connect to the one away at college. And to stop and shed a tear for those who have died. To remember that some day, so will I.

“Whatever we have done with our lives makes us what we are when we die. And everything, absolutely everything, counts. “

Sogyal Rinpoche, The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying

post script to my fragonista friends: Today I am wearing a sample of  Sous le Vent (In the Wind) by Guerlain – the perfect atmospheric scent for these musings.

Image: my own, from Taos, NM strolling near the Mabel Luhan Dodge House

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About reneetamara

Writing about death, mental illness, spirituality, art and perfume. Because beauty feeds the soul, and love is beyond what we think.

2 responses to “Kiss the Joy”

  1. Mark Johnson says :

    Hi Renee,

    Thanks for sharing your heart here with beautiful words. I am at Starbucks (Tamie calls it my church) reading through again one of my favorite books by Pema Chodron. “When Things Fall Apart”. Pema is an American Buddhist nun . I really like they way she is able to communicate some deep wisdom on how to deal with life as it is. She has authored other books that are worth reading, but so far this is my favorite, one that I highly recommend. Hope you get through Nov. and that your heart will deepen through all that you go through.

    With Love,

    Mark Johnson

    • reneetamara says :

      Hi Mark,

      Thanks for reaching out across the blogosphere to connect. Your gesture reminds me how connected we all are and how much we need one another to traverse this journey. Thanksgiving has always been one of my very favorite holidays, but I was feeling so sad and realized it was just two years, November 15th that my sister died. I suppose it makes sense that it will take a while for the holidays to rebound and be free of sad associations. Plus Dad’s birthday was November 3rd. Anniversaries for quiet reflection. Still much to be thankful for.

      I am familar with Pema Chodron and the good book you mention. I agree, she has a lot of wisdom to share.

      With love and a hug to you and yours.

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