What Do You Believe Happens after Death?

Acorn

“What do you believe happens after death?” I asked Førge.

We were driving to the house where we’d been caring for a man named Be, both of us members of a community hospice care team that had provided Be with round-the-clock care for three weeks. Be had died the night before.

“Energy doesn’t just go away. I believe our energy becomes a part of something larger,” Førge said.

Be had always been something larger. I’d known them for less than a year, but each encounter left me feeling joyous. Their smile was delightful, and seeing it made me smile too. At community events, Be naturally held court. They often spoke of chosen family. Be once went on a cruise, sailing on the Queen Mary II. They wore a fabulous blue gown to the captain’s dinner and won the prize for best dressed. Be lived life large.

“What do you believe happens after death?” Førge asked me.

“I don’t know what it will look like or where it will be.” (I stopped to keep from crying.) “But I believe it will be just fine, whatever it is.”

“I believe in Love,” I continued. “Love will continue. Each of us will go on in Love after we die.”

Be loved to Love. I saw this most profoundly through their expressions of gratitude. In the last weeks of Be’s life, they were dependent on others for everything. “Thank you,” they’d whisper as they hugged me to get in and out of the wheelchair to the bathroom. “Thank you. I love you,” they’d say when someone said goodbye after a visit. I can only assume that this life of gratitude was the way they lived throughout their 90 years.

Love past. Love present. Why would we think there would be anything other than Love future after death?

I was driving when Førge texted me that Be’s pain medication was being increased. I pulled over and wrote the following, and I was fortunate enough to share it with Be and with others. I don’t know if Be heard it, and it doesn’t matter. What matters is that they know they were/are Loved, that they Loved/Love, and that Love will go on. I believe, this Be knew/knows. (Verb tenses get clunky when you’re writing about eternity.)

Release the pain and suffering you have experienced these recent weeks. For any harm you have caused in the 90 years of your life, you are forgiven, just as you forgive any harm you have known from others.
Embrace the love you have given and received not only during weeks of illness but also for the entirety of your life. Let go to go on in our memories, and let go to go on to the mystery that awaits us all.
Be blessed, Be.
Blessed Be.

Be

Why Is Madonna Making Me Cry?

I mean, she’s good. I remember thinking when I first heard the album that she sounded richer, fuller, and the music was much more diverse and interesting compared to her previous pop offerings. But I’m not a music critic. The quality of the work isn’t what’s making me cry.

I have a friend who would say, “You’re in your feelin’s.”

On this lazy Sunday morning, I’ve got the time, so I’m going to take the time to figure out why I’m in my feelings, even if I have to put Ray of Light on repeat.

The album was released in America in March of 1998. Ruth was 1 1/2 years old. That makes Ben 3 1/2 and Sam 4 months shy of 6.

Those mathematical calculations may be completely off. I have always been terrible with dates and with nailing down the events associated with them. I rely on the kindness of others to correct me and set me straight. But if I’m right, in March of 1998 I was in the throes–IN THE THROES–of wrestling with my sexuality. I was living in fear, and I was scared to death. I was also excited at the prospect of joy.

Unpacking all of that is something for another post (or perhaps a book). But within it lies the answer to why Madonna is making me cry. 20 years later I feel the same way: I’m still afraid, and I’m still exited at the prospect of joy.

If I’m alive, I expect that 20 years from now I will still feel the same. The key is for there to be more joy than fear. When I compare now with 20 years ago, I can say with conviction and gratitude that there’s more joy than fear. While present fear brought to light by Madonna this morning may be the source of my tears, there’s also a healthy dose of joyful gratitude mixed in.

Nothing takes the past away
Like the future
Nothing makes the darkness go
Like the light
You’re shelter from the storm
Give me comfort in your arms
Nothing really matters
Love is all we need
Everything I give you
All comes back to me

–Madonna, “Nothing Really Matters”

Just Breathe

A friend messaged me this morning and asked me to pray for him. That alone is holy in itself: that my friend would be vulnerable enough to ask (vulnerability doesn’t come easily for him) and that he knew I would pray if he asked.

“I’m about to start yoga,” I replied. “I’ve been stuck setting my intention as inner peace for several days. I’ll include you in that today.”

Things played out differently on the mat, though. Instead of inner peace, I started thinking Love as I inhaled and power as I exhaled. These words felt like they fit the need my friend expressed. They also worked well for me.

As I began breathing and moving through the practice, I was surprised by how I focused on the words and the breath much more than in other sessions. It felt good. 

My mood changed when I started a sequence of poses where I began to exert myself. I started to breathe rapidly. That made the words that were contemplative before (Love…Power…Love…Power) become demanding and forceful (Love…Power…Love…power…Love power). Love power? That didn’t feel right at all. I started to feel uncomfortable with the words even as the flow was making my body uncomfortable. 

Despite the discomfort, I kept going and I kept breathing the words. Eventually I slowed my pace, moved into stretches, and switched back the more acceptable, Love…power.

Savasana, or corpse pose. My breathing began to slow even more. Not long into this restful state, my exhale word became Love, too. Love… Love…Love…Love….

The morning breath prayer stayed with me throughout the day. I thought about how I have to inhale (love)  before I speak. In the space between the inhale and the exhale, I choose what words I will say with the breath that supports them. Will that breath carry with it love? 

The same holds true for an action. I breathe before I take a step, make a decision, react to a situation. Will inhaled and exhaled breath, supporting my actions, be cradled in love? 

What is more powerful than any power? Love. And it took the little death of corpse pose for me to remember this truth. 

Give Thanks

Sister Ann Wenita Morelove

Doug may be feeling poorly, but that would never stop Sister Ann from inspiring joy, ending guilt, and being love.

I’m home from leading the worship service at First Unitarian Universalist Church of Nashville with my Sisters. The church was full of lovely affirming people and I’m grateful they invited us.

I believe a glass of orange juice and a nap are in order.