Tag Archives: Death

Easter Revisited

Easter was a couple of weeks ago.  It was a lovely family day, where on a beautiful spring afternoon, my daughters, son-in-law, and granddaughters met in Charlotte for lunch and some sweet outdoor visiting time.  A couple of days later, I saw something on Facebook asking what was your most memorable Easter? so I thought about a few of mine.

For many years, my family went to the Dillard House in Dillard, Georgia, enjoying the big family-style Easter dinner, seeing the Easter Bunny and little girls and boys in their Easter finest gathering brightly colored, barely hidden eggs, visiting the farm animals, especially those comically adorable baby goats!  When my first granddaughter was 1 or 2 years old, she participated in her first Easter egg hunt and fed the animals, giggling at their tongues licking her hand to get every last bite of corn.

One Easter I spent in Cleveland, Ohio.  Dinner was homemade and delicious, including bread made by Eastern Orthodox Church women. We didn’t have lamb as I expected we would, but I was glad.  Then we took a long afternoon drive out in Amish country, which was picturesque and quite charming. Lots of people must have been visiting friends and family because many buggies were on the road that day.  Just as we arrived back to the house, there was a thunderstorm, and we stayed in for a cozy evening with leftovers. It was also Eastern Orthodox Easter. Though the two don’t always coincide the same week, that year they did, so at midnight, very early Easter morning, after dying eggs, we watched the darkened church across the street as its members held their candlelight procession around the church singing and chanting, before coming back to enter a lighted sanctuary and proclaim Christ is risen indeed. Religions have fascinated me most of my life.

Going back further, I spent a couple of Easters playing the baritone horn for the the Moravian church at the Easter sunrise service in Old Salem in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.  We went to bed early, got up in the wee hours to play on the streets of neighborhoods, different bands doing this all over the city, before meeting up at Home Moravian Church for a big early breakfast and going out to the graveyard (God’s Acre) to play for the sunrise service.  Even though I don’t take the Easter story literally, I still have affection for Jesus and what his story represents.  Hearing the music of all the instruments playing those ancient tunes and the birds singing as the sun came up, with that proclamation heard round the world that “Christ is risen, He is risen indeed,” gave me goose bumps and was a moving experience.  We then went on to play again in a small church cemetery.  Easter afternoon consisted of dinner, followed by a long nap, as we were all exhausted, but happy.

This brings me to my most memorable Easter ever, and the one that makes me teary.  Seven years ago, after a six-week stay in ICU, my dad passed away peacefully in a regular room (three days after taking him off the ventilator), on Easter Sunday, surrounded by his closest family.  He had been in a coma almost the whole six weeks, suffering from an infection that went from his lung to his brain.  There had been hope he would recover, but when the last shunt change didn’t help, we knew it was time to let him go.  I read him the Easter story from his Bible.  I don’t know if on some level he heard me or not.  Easter morning, we took some pretty flowers from my parents’ yard to his hospital room.  The doctor came in and listened to his lungs that morning and said something had changed.  “I think today will be the day,” he told my mom and me.  My daughters and son-in-law got there, and as if he had waited for us all to be together, which maybe he did, soon afterwards he took his last breath.  It startled us, although we had been listening intently to his breathing and would hold our own breaths when it seemed it might be his last, then he would breathe again, and so would we.  But this time there was no mistaking that for my dad there was no other breath to come….he turned blue almost instantly.  I had never seen a person die before.  We were sad, of course, and yet relieved, too, in a way.  He wasn’t going to get better and none of us wanted to see him that way.  It wasn’t the life he wanted, and we had each been preparing for it in our own ways already.  We sat in his room for awhile, quiet, crying, then after making a few phone calls and going through some red tape, we left the hospital and went to Cracker Barrel and had Easter dinner.  It is exactly what he would have wanted us to do, and I think we all felt his presence and energy there with us in some way or other.  We were able to talk and laugh and share memories.  The more intense sadness and reality hit later, as it usually does, when we were alone or when in doing normal everyday things, we remembered he wasn’t there.  After that, we took a little walk down by the river.  It was a beautiful day and a heartbreaking one.  I wouldn’t trade that time with my dad as he breathed his last breath for anything.  It was a precious moment and by far my most memorable Easter.

Even though I’m a Pantheist now for many years, I still consider myself religious.  I love Easter and what it symbolizes, what the crucifixion and resurrection can mean even to a person who is no longer traditionally religious but carries those old rituals in their memory, part of their very being.  It’s rebirth and the spring season both in the natural world, of which we’re a part, but also within ourselves.  It’s about hope, and you don’t have to be Christian to appreciate those things about Easter along with all its pagan elements.  People have loved symbols and rituals pretty much as long as they’ve inhabited this planet, it would seem.  I have cherished memories of lots of Easters over many years, shared with special people, all held close to my heart.

~Sharon

Copyright (c) 2017 by Raindrop Ridge Press

Afterlife

I apologize for this being a bit long, but there’s something I want to share that made me think about my feelings as a pantheist regarding death and an afterlife. I know pantheists vary somewhat in their views on that, but personally I don’t believe in an afterlife in the sense of a soul going to heaven or hell, or a physical resurrection, or seeing our dead relatives in another life. My idea of an afterlife is in memories and things I’ve written or spoken or taught, genes I’ve passed down, people I’ve touched, and hopefully helping a few flowers or trees grow, too.

Anyway, a young woman here in town recently died unexpectedly after a bout with pneumonia. This is a small town and most everyone here knows someone in her family. My daughters do, I do, so it was pretty shocking and sad. She was survived by parents, husband, children, sister and her family, and a big extended family. So there have been tons of outpourings of sympathy to them all from the whole community, and especially to her sister in person and online. The sister has a side business involving promoting a line of products and she does live feeds and videos periodically on Facebook, with a huge number of followers, and I watched a couple of them yesterday that I could see through my daughter’s FB page. They were from soon after her sister had died, and of course she was crying off and on, but mostly just talking about being real and authentic, feeling sad and irritable sometimes, sitting in the floor crying, all of which I can identify with. She was very thankful for all the love and prayers shown to her and her family. Then she said she didn’t know how anyone could get through tragedies in life without the support of so many people and without faith in God. If someone didn’t know what that kind of faith was like or hadn’t experienced it, to let her know or speak with someone else who knew and they could help them find this for themselves. Knowing the family, I know it is the Christian God and Christian faith she speaks of.

I respect each person’s right to find God for themselves (separation of church and state is another issue). I love sharing pantheism with people sometimes, but I’m not trying to make them become pantheists. In fact, I used to believe in that Christian God myself, a long time ago. But what some people don’t understand is that people like me, who believe God is essentially Nature, not a man, not someone who wrote the Bible, also get through tragedies as well as they do. We are strong and ethical and resilient and love life, and we grieve and cry and love and move forward like they do. They may not understand how we do that because they have relied on their God and prayer for so long and can’t imagine not having that, and I get that’s why a lot of people are drawn to more traditional religions; they need and want more than what they can experience with their senses, more hope that there has to be something else besides this short little life we lead. But I hope through sharing pantheism and my own experiences, that I can at least help them understand that we do get through these kinds of things and we do experience the same tragedies in life and the same feelings of sadness and loss and move on, happy and healthy. This woman is planning and counting on seeing her sister again one day in her recognizable form in heaven. Almost 7 years ago my dad died on Easter Sunday after being sick with an infection for weeks. About 4-1/2 years later, my mom (who was then living with me due to health issues) was in the hospital with pneumonia for weeks and died the week before Christmas. It was the hardest thing I ever went through losing my mom, the only parent I had left, the person who had known me the longest. A grown woman with adult children and a little granddaughter, and here I felt like an orphan. I’m an only child, and I was glad to have my daughters, son-in-law, granddaughter, and 3 cousins at the hospital with me. But that’s all the people I really needed there. My family is very small, private, and we didn’t have huge numbers of people reaching out to us. We have never needed or wanted that. I don’t expect to see my parents again in heaven and I’m fine with that. Some of their ashes are in an urn in my living room; other ashes have been scattered outside. I want people to know that just because we don’t believe in their specific version of God, we can still handle life and death. Yes, I cried a lot and it took a few weeks before I realized I had a day when I didn’t cry even for a minute or two, but I kept functioning and remain hopeful and joyous about this experience called life. I have my own kind of faith, and that is in the cycles of life and nature. Just because my parents aren’t here in front of me, I know I’m connected to them all the time. The pear tree and other shrubs in my yard, my dad helped me plant them. Things in my house, photos, features of my own body, my children’s bodies, our sense of humor, our language, values, our approaches to life, how we deal with people, and tons of memories are very much a reminder of both my parents every day, and we extend those things in some ways to everyone we meet. And now some of their ashes are in the ground and the atmosphere, in trees and leaves. When they died, yes, it made me focus more on the religious aspects of pantheism, but it never made me believe I would see them again as the only way I could keep going on with my life. It never made me turn to the Christian God and to that kind of prayer and belief in an afterlife. It did make me thankful for what I do believe, for every little “ordinary” thing I see or experience, to appreciate and not take it for granted, for the people who are in my life, the animals, everything around me.

I’m glad I have pantheism as my worldview, as my religious path. It makes me happy. It gives me comfort to know I always feel connected to nature, the universe, the people I know and have known, along with the stars and the trees and the creeks and the mountains. This is the only God I need and want. But I wish people wouldn’t think I’m missing something and try to “fix” me or think I even need fixing. My heart goes out to this family; I know it has been incredibly hard for them, and I’m glad they have a way of coping with it and going on with their lives. It’s not a way that would work for me, but it is important to me to have a path to follow and a worldview to believe in and live by, too, and for me, that is pantheism.

~Sharon

Copyright (c) 2017 by Raindrop Ridge Press

(Also posted in Universal Pantheists Facebook group, as well as the UPS Ning discussion site)

Dying

purple mumThis may seem a morbid thought to some, thinking about my own death, but here goes.  June is a great month to have been born in, early June, so still the spring of the year, my second favorite season.  But when I die, I hope I die in October, my favorite month.  October makes me feel alive, maybe that last burst before everything starts dying.  Nature gives us a color explosion before it goes more brown and bare and dull gray.  The colors of autumn are vibrant and usually reach their peak in October.  It’s the season that makes me happy and energizes me, and it’s the month that brings back good memories for me of school days and street dances, chilly mornings and nights, woolen skirts and colorful sweaters, pumpkins and Jack-o-Lanterns, Indian corn, chrysanthemums of purple, yellow, white, and bronze, and those crisp blue skies you can get lost in when you look up.  A quote has been going around on Facebook, “My favorite color is October.”  That’s so me……and to die and have my ashes scattered in these mountains, maybe even along a creek bank, on a colorful October day, under that blue sky that only autumn gives us, just seems right, before the leaves fall and the cold winds blow, preparing for that next glorious spring in the cycle of life, being ever joined with God.  I find that comforting.

~Sharon

Copyright (c) 2014 by Raindrop Ridge Press

A Time to Laugh and a Time to Cry

First of all, let me say that my family is kind of weird, okay?  We’re mostly pretty quiet, but we can be really silly and dissolve into contagious bouts of giggles over not much at all.  Sometimes, maybe lots of times, we’re sarcastic and smart-assed and laugh at odd things.

During all this moving around and cleaning-out process we’ve been going through lately as my mom moved in with me, we came across a joke book.

One of my daughters had given it to my dad a few years back at Christmas.  He loved hearing us read the silly jokes and we’d all start laughing before we even finished them.  I really treasure those times when we all just laugh ourselves to tears.  We feel so close.

On Thursday morning, before my dad died three days later on Easter Sunday, my mom, daughters, son-in-law, and I gathered in his hospital room when they took him off the ventilator.  We stayed with him off and on until nature took its course, coming home only late at night to grab a bit of rest and change clothes, assured that if something changed we would be called immediately.  But that Thursday one or both of my daughters, I’m not sure who, had the great insight to bring that silly joke book to the hospital with them, and we read jokes out loud and laughed ridiculously as my dad lay in his bed (I know, some people would think that’s so disrespectful, but it didn’t seem that way to us).  It was good for us and I hope for him.  We held his hand; we rubbed his forehead or his arm; we laid our heads beside him on the bed.  I want to believe, though I don’t know for sure, that some part of him heard us, maybe not the words, but the laughter, the closeness of his family around him, knowing he was loved and safe and that it was okay.  Our laughter was mixed with tears, and eventually for awhile the tears took over before we could laugh easily and with abandon again.  It’s a precious memory.  It is said that laughter is the best medicine; I don’t know about that, but I do know that it helped me through the most difficult and saddest time of my life.

~Sharon

 Copyright (c) 2012 by Raindrop Ridge Press

Rest in Peace, Sweet Honey….or Sometimes Life Really Sucks

Today I had to have Miss Honey put to sleep.  She was really old and in pain.  She couldn’t hear and she could barely see.  She would still eat her bones and snacks and food, but she couldn’t walk very well any more.  Mostly she slept.  I truly believe that our pets have a way of telling us when enough is enough and this morning was that time.  She looked so sad, so worn out, not wanting to eat, not wanting to walk.  I think she just wanted to sleep and not have to struggle to stand up, to walk, to climb up and down stairs, to get in the car for yet another injection to keep her going (every two weeks), to not itch any more (from a skin ailment), or take thyroid pills twice a day.  Was I doing all these things for her or for me?

My daughters found her as an abandoned puppy years ago and named her Honey, very aptly, by the way.  She was the sweetest-natured dog I’ve ever known.  I really miss her already.  She was my dad’s dog and it’s almost exactly a year since he died after we had to make the decision to take him off life support, so all the feelings and emotions are tangled up today with lots of tears, but I know this is the right thing for Honey.  As long as I live, I will never forget this gentle animal with the kind eyes, and I’m so honored to have been able to give her a home for the last year and a few months.

I don’t want to debate about the rightness or wrongness of euthanasia for pets.  I had to do what was right for Honey and you have to do what’s right for your pet, but either way I know so many of us love our pets dearly and really try to do the best for them through their lives and at the end of them.

Rest in peace, sweet Honey girl.  You’re loved and you’re missed.  My youngest daughter was with me today in the room with Honey as she took her last breath and we were able to kiss her good-bye, and she said that maybe tonight Papaw (my dad) could take Honey for another walk.  I think that’s sweet and in some kind of metaphorical way I believe it.  Sharing the pain helps a little bit.

~Sharon

copyright (c) 2011 by Raindrop Ridge Press