“And though all the things I love may pass away and the great family of things and people I have made around me will see me go, I feel them living in me like a great gathering ready to reach a greater home. When one thing dies all things die together, and must live again in a different way, when one thing is missing everything is missing, and must be found again in a new whole and everything wants to be complete, everything wants to go home. And the geese travelling south are like the shadow of my breath flying into darkness on great-beats to an unknown and where I belong.” David Whyte.
One of my closest friends has gone to India. Her entire bucket list, the last wish standing. I am so happy she is there. She is resting, healing, reading, meditating and enjoying being so deeply cared for. She stays beyond the date she had for return because she wants and needs the space to be. She posts photos and updates on Facebook, one saying she’s decided with her beloved husband that they have planned to not have a plan.
I speak to her on the phone and we send messages. In the last few weeks of her life, I have this inexplicable sensation like I have just hung up the phone from talking to her, except we have not. I get it all the time. I finally message her and tell her, that we seem to be having this extraordinary communication without actually talking. She responds saying how pleased she is our hearts are open, and that she loves me.
She dies three days later.
She had been unwell on and off for five years. Still, I am devastated, and for days I barely find words to talk or write. I mostly avoid people where I can, except for a few close friends. There is nothing I want to say.
Just a sense of being barren. Not much feels real.
Plugging my phone in to be charged has me bawling, realizing we will never call each other again. I sob and sob. I find comfort in the Foo Fighters, playing their music as loud as I can because they belt out the lyrics. I scream with them. This about sums up the state of my heart.
The best way to describe early days and weeks of grief for me is being caught between two worlds, one with my friend, and one without her. This is coupled with waves of loss smashing me whenever and wherever. There is zero choice for its arrival. You can be okay one moment, and then drowning the next.
I just miss her. Even referring to her in past tense makes me reel. I feel confused. And it is not fair. Life at times is ruthless and random.
One of my best friends shares with me something our friend always said to her, that asking why is not a spiritual question. I then heard her say the better question to ask is what. Unbeknown to my friend, this stops me internally rallying at life for its harshness. I soften.
So, I ask myself what?
We talked often and nothing was off limits in our conversations, in fact some topics expanded over years. She was immensely awake, by that I that mean spiritually tenacious and she embodied living for this very moment. I have never seen such a radical transformation before in a person. I had the privilege of watching her become so full of light through her daily practices of meditation, chanting and yoga.
This is not to say she was perfect, she was inherently human, beautifully so.
She was fiercely competitive. I played online scrabble with her, once. I saw firsthand how she researched information, gathering and weighing up facts against fiction. I can only imagine how this translated into her courtroom appearances. I would not want to be on the receiving end. I admired her strength and determination. She almost always knew more about medical research and results than the specialists treating her.
She was an avid seeker of truth, she devoured books and there was always a parcel being delivered to her door step. Her empowerment was revered by many of us.
I invite a small group of friends to gather at my house, each bringing what we feel is personally meaningful to create an altar. Our offerings include candles, incense, books, flowers, crystals, fruit and much love. We talk, eat vegan food, and share stories together. There is laughing coupled with our own grief, knowing we will never physically see her in this life again. The open fire is roaring and at the most succinct moments the wood pops.
I would say she is lingering joyfully in our presence.
Her Kundalini yoga teacher arrives with chai. The brew is lovingly made and we sit in the fire light. There are times of stillness and of chatter, both meaningful. We then gather in a circle on the floor and are led into a meditation before we begin chanting Akaal for our friend.
This word means undying, without time and that which never dies, and it is said chanting Akaal helps the soul to pass out of this world into the divine beyond.
Whatever our personal beliefs about death may be, it did not matter. To sit in circle with women, meditating and chanting to a vibration of energy beyond understanding is simply stunning. One of my friends drummed and everything in me felt so much gratitude for the years of friendship we shared.
At the end, each person was invited to say something if they wanted to. The few words that came to me were, “you did it.”
I had studied palliative care and volunteered on a ward for a time, and although a topic most people do not wish to talk about, death and dying consciously was often a great discussion between us. I believe my friend had a calm death without the need for medical intervention. I would even go as far to say she would not have had any existential anguish either.
You might want to label this wishful thinking but if you knew my friend intimately, you would know this is who she is, who she became.
Most ironically, when she was diagnosed with her illness she had to cancel her imminent departure overseas, to India. I do not believe it was a coincidence that her last physical breath out was in the very place her heart always longed to be. She had the love of her life, her husband, with her. She had stopped asking why a long time ago, and instead she asked what. She wholeheartedly knew, and had the courage to follow what she was called to do.
My beautiful friend, I love you beyond the words, it seems it is our thing. Akaal.